Lockdowns during the pandemic have similar effects on memory as serving jail time, according to a new study involving 227 people in the UK.

The Effect of Lockdowns on People’s Memory


The study found that lockdowns during the pandemic may have had a similar effect on people’s memories after serving jail time.

The Study

In the study, which involved 227 people from the United Kingdom, they were asked to identify the year in which some major news events took place, such as Meghan Markle’s accession to the British royal family or the introduction of the first Covid-19 vaccine.

And the volunteers remembered the events of 2021 as badly as the events of four years ago.
This is similar to what happens to people in prison who lose the ability to track the passage of time due to a lack of “reference events” such as birthdays and holidays, the researchers say.

Professor Arash Saharai, senior author of the study from the University of Aberdeen, explains that studies show that in prison prisoners lose their sense of time, and “this is similar to what we observed in people who were asked to recall events during lockdown, perhaps because that, like the prisoners, they had no activities.

A study published in the journal PLOS One gave people four events every five years, between 2017 and 2021. This included Meghan Markle joining the royal family, ending Brexit, launching a coronavirus vaccination program, and banning Donald Trump from Facebook.

For each event that occurred between 2016 and 2022, the volunteers had to choose the year in which they thought it happened.

The Results

The newer the news, the better it will be remembered, the study found, so volunteers surveyed in May last year had to make every effort to remember the events of 2021.

The poor accuracy for 2021 was similar to people’s problems remembering events that happened much longer, in 2017 and 2018, for which their answers were wrong by 1.21 and 1.13 years, respectively.

People’s memories weren’t all that bad for 2020, which the researchers believe is because lockdowns from the pandemic only started at the end of March and the shock of the situation gave people “benchmarks” to track as the months went by.

“While comparing the prison environment with the restrictions associated with the pandemic can be seen as an extreme case, we argue that in both cases there are similarities in the degree of social isolation,” the study says.

And people had worse memories if they experienced more anxiety and depression during self-isolation.


The study suggests that lockdowns may have had a significant impact on people’s memory recall, similar to the effect of serving time in prison. As social interaction and reference events shrink, people’s ability to keep track of time may diminish. It highlights the importance of maintaining a balanced social life and being aware of mental health during isolation.

Source: Daily Mail

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