We have to admit that 2020 has proven to be one of the weirdest years so far. From wildfires to what seemed to be the beginning of World War III and, lastly, to a pandemic no one was ready for. Months of lockdown have surely had many repercussions amongst people of all ages – from youngsters to the elderly. In particular, if we think about teenagers and the adolescence period, we know that it’s a stage of life “characterised by heightened sensitivity to social stimuli and the increased need for peer interaction,” as explained by a recent paper published on The Lancet.
Unfortunately, ‘the physical distancing measures mandated globally to contain the spread of COVID-19 have been radically reducing adolescents' opportunities to engage in face-to-face social contact outside their household’ and this has had both a social and mental impact on them. Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) explained that mental health disorders continue to grow “with significant impacts on health and major social, human rights and economic consequences in all countries of the world.”
Now, because of the pandemic and the three-month-long lockdown that was in place in many countries, an IFS analysis of longitudinal data from the Understanding Society study found that taking account of pre-pandemic trajectories, psychological health has worsened substantially (by 8.1% on average) as a result of the pandemic. In particular, the study explained that “whilst measures relating to general happiness deteriorated for all age groups, trends in other dimensions are particularly negative and/or specific to young adults,” meaning that the young generation has been affected the most.
We mustn’t forget that adolescence is already considered to be a period of heightened vulnerability to mental health problems, “with 75% of adults who have ever had a mental health condition reporting that they first experienced symptoms before the age of 24.” Because of this, The Lancet explained that “widespread changes in the social environment, such as enforced physical distancing and reduced face-to-face social contact with peers, might have a substantial effect on brain and behavioural development during adolescence.”