Young people’s anxiety levels doubled during lockdown: Study

New research adds to a growing body of evidence that young people’s anxiety levels doubled during Covid-19 lockdown.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, revealed that the number of young people with anxiety doubled from 13 per cent to 24 per cent, during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown

“The findings suggest that there is a need to protect mental health at this time (especially managing anxiety) and support mental health services,” said study author Rebecca Pearson from the University of Bristol in the UK.

The study, using Bristol’s Children of the 90s questionnaire data, showed that young people (27-29 years) reported higher levels of anxiety during the early phases of the pandemic in the first national lockdown and this was higher than their parents.

Researchers also found that anxiety levels continued to remain high even when lockdown restrictions were eased in June and thus a similar situation may be expected this winter.

The findings also suggest that this could be worse for individuals with a history of mental health problems, women and those who had experienced pre-pandemic financial problems.

These findings have been highlighted by Public Health England to help influence policy and the government’s understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on mental health.

There was no evidence that depression was higher overall, however, specific groups of individuals were more likely to experience greater levels of depression and anxiety during the pandemic.

Bristol’s Children of the 90s health study recruited 14,500 pregnant mothers in 1991-92 and has collected almost three decades of detailed health and lifestyle data about the mothers and their babies, who will soon be turning 30.

For this study, researchers compared participants’ previous years’ of data with findings from two 2020 Covid-19 questionnaires to understand the impact of the pandemic on mental health.

Certain groups within the study were at greater risk of increased anxiety and/or depression during Covid-19, even after accounting for their previous history of depression and anxiety.

Researchers did not find evidence of an elevated risk of anxiety in key workers or healthcare workers.

These findings were observed in both the younger and older generations and replicated in an additional group of over 4,000 Scottish individuals.

“The highly detailed Children of the 90s questionnaire data reveals a worrying rise in young people’s anxiety,” said study researcher Alex Kwong.

“This looks like it is due to the pandemic itself and potentially the societal and economic fallout caused by the lockdown measures used to control the spread of the virus,” Kwong added.