COVID-19 pandemic causing deterioration in mental health of youth: Myth or Reality?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Anastasia Kalantarova, HBSc, a final year medical student at Poznan University of Medical sciences in Poznan, Poland. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 pandemic has been a terrifying period of time for the whole world for many different reasons, the list of which is exhaustive. Not only the physical health, but also the mental health has suffered greatly. Many media headings have projected serious consequences of COVID-19 on mental health of adolescent population specifically. Being deprived of opportunities normally available at a given age, youth in the era of COVID-19 has been referred to as “lost generation”. There is no argument that mental health of youth has been affected. However, is COVID-19 pandemic the only one to blame? The answer to this question is not so simple.

To evaluate mental health in Iceland during the year of 2020, Dr. Thorisdottir, PhD and colleagues collected social surveys in schools, sampling depressive symptoms in youth between ages of 13 and 18. They reported deterioration of overall well-being and increase in depressive symptoms in current youth compared to peers of the same age before COVID-19 (in 2016 and 2018).  Another study published in 2021, analyzed mental health state of college students across the globe, to discover, yet again, increased prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms. From the above evidence, many would conclude COVID-19 to be the factor playing a role in this downslide trend of mental health in youth.

With majority of mental illnesses emerging in adolescence, this is in fact a sensitive period of individual development during which any influence counts. However, even prior to the pandemic, clinicians have noticed an increasing prevalence of psychological distress in this population. For example, depressive symptoms were prevalent in 9% of US adolescents back in 2005 and, in 2017, the number increased to 13%. Additionally, a comprehensive population study reported a slight increase in mental health symptoms at the start of the pandemic in 2020 compared to years before, however the authors suggest that the difference is statistically small. Some may argue that mental health in adolescents is simply following it’s established trajectory and may not be directly caused by the pandemic. Further evaluation and research is required to establish stronger evidence.

Either way, we are left with one fact that is true for certain – mental health in youth has been deteriorating over the recent years and we have to take action.


Chang, J. J., Ji, Y., Li, Y. H., Pan, H. F., & Su, P. Y. (2021). Prevalence of anxiety symptom and depressive symptom among college students during COVID-19 pandemic: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders.

Hafstad, G. S., & Augusti, E. M. (2021). A lost generation? COVID-19 and adolescent mental health. The Lancet Psychiatry.

Robinson, E., Sutin, A. R., Daly, M., & Jones, A. (2021). A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal cohort studies comparing mental health before versus during the COVID-19 pandemic. medRxiv.

Thorisdottir, I. E., Asgeirsdottir, B. B., Kristjansson, A. L., Valdimarsdottir, H. B., Tolgyes, E. M. J., Sigfusson, J., … & Halldorsdottir, T. (2021). Depressive symptoms, mental wellbeing, and substance use among adolescents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iceland: a longitudinal, population-based study. The Lancet Psychiatry.

About the author

Anastasia Kalantarova, HBSc is a final year medical student at Poznan University of Medical sciences in Poznan, Poland. She has been a member of IFMSA Poland for the last 3 years and is an activist in her local academic community. Her mission is to empower future medical professionals to be proactive about medicine through research and advocacy efforts. She is an avid advocate for holistic approach to medicine and wishes to embody this approach in her practice as a family physician in her home country, Canada.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Constitution of the 9th legislature of the European Parliament

To solve big issues like climate change, we need to reframe our problems

Any doubt?

GSMA announces first speakers for Mobile 360 Series-Middle East and North Africa

A Sting Exclusive: “Accelerating Trade Digitalization in Times of the Pandemic”, written by the UN Under-Secretary-General and Head of ESCAP

NATO summit, Brussels, 11-12/07/2018

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union will impact young people’s future the most

Guterres welcomes conduct of Afghan elections, commends ‘all who braved security concerns to uphold their right to vote’

Can I still send mail in the time of coronavirus?

Stable growth momentum in the OECD area

A brief history of vaccines and how they changed the world

Quality Internships: Towards a Toolkit for Employers

This company is breeding millions of insects in the heart of London

7 surprising and outrageous stats about gender inequality

Welfare of transported animals: MEPs urge EU states to do a better job

Financial support for workers affected by no-deal Brexit

EP leaders call for negotiations on upgraded Transparency Register to continue

Eight years after Fukushima, nuclear power is making a comeback

Black historical figures who shook the world, from a warrior queen to a Mexican president

Parliament approves key directive regulating professional qualifications

Russia won’t let Ukraine drift westwards in one piece

Elections in Europe: No risks for the EU, leaders readying to face Trump-Brexit

More needs to be done to bridge the digital gender divide

Technology and public healthcare: the basis to fight COVID-19

Forest fires: EU continues to mobilise assistance for Greece and other countries in region

Data Protection Regulation one year on: 73% of Europeans have heard of at least one of their rights

Too Young to Feel Hopeless – Mental Health of the Youth and the Effects of COVID-19

EU will have stronger powers in trade disputes

UNICEF calls on supply chain and transport industry to take COVID-19 vaccines to the world

Nairobi summit: Women’s empowerment a ‘game changer’ for sustainable development

Syria: At least seven children killed in yet another airstrike

Budget MEPs approve €104.2 m in EU aid to Greece, Spain, France and Portugal

This woman solved one of the biggest problems facing green energy

Withdrawal Agreement: Commission sends letter of formal notice to the United Kingdom for breach of its obligations under the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

‘You can and should do more’ to include people with disabilities, wheelchair-bound Syrian advocate tells Security Council in searing speech

3 dynamics shaping the future of security on the Korean peninsula

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Women boost work profits, saving biodiversity, UK loses Chagos Islands vote, Gaza funding, malaria-free in Argentina, Algeria

Madagascar: UN Secretary-General reaffirms support for electoral process

Chart of the day: This is how many animals we eat each year

New Zealand Prime Minister opens door to 4-day working week

Digital democracy: a Swiss view on digital trust

Libya: Heavy shelling and civilian deaths ‘blatant violation’ of international law – UN envoy

Coronavirus: Commission presents practical guidance to ensure continuous flow of goods across EU via green lanes

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

Plastic is a global problem. It’s also a global opportunity

‘Counter and reject’ leaders who seek to ‘exploit differences’ between us, urges Guterres at historic mosque in Cairo

Avocado: the ‘green gold’ causing environment havoc

A third of young people polled by UN, report being a victim of online bullying

As ride-hailing firms drive into the future, who is being left behind?

COVID-19 has been a setback for women. Gender-responsive policies can stem the losses

How India can become a leader in sustainable aviation fuel

‘Stealing’ food from hungry Yemenis ‘must stop immediately’, says UN agency

Why is scientific collaboration key? 4 experts explain

Women in Switzerland have gone on strike – this is why

Climate change hits the poor hardest. Mozambique’s cyclones prove it

COVID-19: Commission creates first ever rescEU stockpile of medical equipment

MEPs strengthen EU financial watchdogs

More than 90% of the world’s children are breathing toxic air

Chart of the day: These countries have seen the biggest falls in extreme poverty

Security: better access to data for border control and migration management

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: