Men from ethnic minority groups may have experienced worse mental health declines than white men in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic, research suggests.

Scientists say there is some evidence that Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani men may have experienced the highest average increase in mental distress when compared to white British men.

Women, regardless of their ethnicity, were also found to experience a greater average increase in mental distress than men.

The findings, published in the journal Plos One, are based on a survey of more than 14,000 people from before and during the pandemic.

The researchers looked at data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, which is one of the largest surveys in the world – capturing information every year about the social and economic circumstances and attitudes of people living in Britain.

Study authors Eugenio Proto, from the University of Glasgow’s Adam Smith Business School, and Climent Quintana-Domeque, from the University of Exeter’s Department of Economics, Business School, compared responses from participants between 2017 and 2019 to those from April 2020.

They looked at responses from 14,523 individuals – which included 1,066 participants from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

Participants were asked to self-report their health, including their mental wellbeing.

Their responses were then used to measure levels of mental distress, on a scale from 0 to 36.

The authors found that the average mental distress for individuals had increased from 11.28 in 2017-2019 to 12.51 in April 2020.

White British men saw an average increase in mental distress of 0.6 units on the scale, while the average increase for white British women was 1.6 units.

Meanwhile, men from ethnic minority groups experienced an average increase of 1.5 units, and women, 1.7 units.

However, the authors said that their conclusions may be limited due to a smaller sample size of individuals from ethnic minorities.

They also noted that the mental health distress was measured relatively early during the pandemic but added their preliminary findings appear to indicate “the impact of the lockdown and social distancing requirements on mental health being worse among minority ethnic groups”.

The authors wrote: “Both women – regardless of their ethnicity – and black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) men experienced a higher average increase in mental distress than white British men, so that the gender gap in mental health increases only among white British individuals.

“These ethnic-gender specific changes in mental health persist after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

“Finally, we find some evidence that, among men, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani individuals have experienced the highest average increase in mental distress with respect to white British men.”