How has Covid-19 affected young people's health?

One of the most speculated facets of the global pandemic is its impact on young people’s health. However, the Department For Education has investigated precisely this through its new research report; so, how has the pandemic affected us?

How has Covid-19 affected young people's health?

The Department For Education has recently published a research report into young people’s health, the ‘State Of The Nation 2021: Children & Young People’s Wellbeing.’

The report investigates the physical and mental health of young people and the pandemic’s effect, considering how this unprecedented emergency affected some of the youngest members of society. Unfortunately, the report clocks in at two-hundred and thirty-two pages, which is hardly bedtime reading. So, we have summed up its main findings for you. 

Overall, people’s physical and mental health have reduced, and it appears to be linked to COVID.

Methodology

There are some important things that we have to consider before diving into the details of this report. 

Scope

The report only investigated people between five and twenty-four years old who reside within England. Granted, one can most likely extrapolate these findings but they may not necessarily be accurate for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Generally, young people seemed to express doubts regarding the future rather than the pandemic itself.

Data

The report draws on longitudinal and cross-sectional data, which simply means long and short term data. However, it does not include any studies around the impact of the variants on young people’s health - something that likely impacts findings. 

Wellbeing

2020 unsurprisingly saw a dip in children and young people’s assessment of their personal wellbeing. However, The Children’s Society reported that whilst there were certainly ebbs and flows in wellbeing, scores generally recovered to pre-pandemic levels. 

There seems to have been a link between personal wellbeing and the government’s restrictions. Unsurprisingly, the dips coincided with the implementation of tighter restrictions in response to COVID; primary and secondary school students reported a dip in wellbeing when schools closed, for example. 

The most vulnerable were of lower socioeconomic status, ethnic minorities, special needs communities and females.

Mental wellbeing 

Data illustrates that the risks of mental health issues remained higher than before the pandemic in 2021. Yet, the report concedes that it is difficult to tell if this is due to the pandemic itself or just part of a trend. Evidently, more research is needed to say for sure, but anecdotal evidence suggests the former. 

The most vulnerable were of lower socioeconomic status, special needs communities and those with long-term physical issues. The data also suggests that eating disorders were more likely for older and female young people, with female respondents being more concerned about their mental health than males. 

Physical wellbeing

The report found that levels of physical activity surprisingly remained consistent despite the lockdown(s). Those who were less active were likely to be secondary-school age and from an ethnic minority group; gender was not much of a factor as males seem to be less active, which narrowed the gap. 

The pandemic affected extra-curricular activities, which meant that less people could participate in them.

Parents, on the whole, reported a correlation between more time spent outside and increased happiness.

There was an increase in reported obesity rates too, and those who were at particular risk appear to be: reception age, males and ethnic minorities. 

Education

Naturally, attendance in educational institutions fluctuated depending upon the pandemic restrictions. The levels of happiness were not much different to previous years, but for those who were unhappy, older and female respondents were more likely to report unhappiness.

There was a link between attendance and wellbeing, given those with higher attendance had better wellbeing. There is also something to be said of these pupils’ experience at school as those who attended more reported more positive experiences at school.

Relationships

Generally, respondents were happy with their familial relationships, but there was a dip in friendships. This may be attributed to the fact that lockdown led to young people spending more time with family, meaning less time with their friends.

Another factor could be bullying which would reduce respondents’ social happiness as well. Those who belong to groups of lower socioeconomic status, had special needs and were caucasian were all at greater risk of bullying.

There is a demonstrable link between poor social relationships and younger people’s mental health too.

The most vulnerable were older and female.

Society

The main social concerns for young people were housing, finances and the prospect of finding a job. There were also concerns about wider social issues like the environment and new illnesses. Typically, those who were most worried were of lower socioeconomic status, older and female. 

Those who felt they were coping less well with the pandemic were more likely to express their worries.

Author

Dheeraj Chutani

Dheeraj Chutani Kickstart

Dheeraj is a recent postgraduate having graduated with a BA and MA in Politics from The University Of Leicester. He is interested in all things politics and current affairs but when he is not catching up with all the latest headlines, he enjoys reading, jogging, weight-lifting and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

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