The Case of Increased Anxiety in Youth Due to the Uncertainty Associated with the Pandemic

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Aysha Noor, 3rd year MBBS student from Shifa College of Medicine in Islamabad, Pakistan. 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.

Many falsely believe that the pandemic has left the youth untouched because we are the least infected demographic and the biggest change we faced are online classes. Such narratives are not comprehensive because the pandemic has had devastating effects on all of us, irrespective of age. Specifically, there has been an emergence of mental health problems among young people. Most of our mental health issues have manifested as anxiety caused by the lack of certainty associated with the pandemic. 

One of the first measures implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19 was a lockdown including the shut down of educational institutes. The trials of online school have been well documented but we forget that online schooling, in underdeveloped countries, was only an option for wealthy students who attended private schools . In countries such as mine, Pakistan, the public schools did not have the resources to provide online classes and the impoverished students did not have access to the internet to begin with. Such students faced an uncertain future when schools were closed for months on end or even a year if the positivity rates were extremely high in their area. As the wait got longer, the students’ plans for graduation and advanced studies got further away leading to increased worries that negatively impacted their mental health.

Additionally, youth make up the largest age group of social media users therefore they are the most susceptible to online misinformation. In Pakistan, the literacy rates are low but the digital literacy rates are lower. Additionally, youth are among the most impressionable demographic as their minds are still developing. The impressionability of youth plus lack of digital literacy plus social media equals a dangerous combination that allows youth to become the target of online propaganda. They are inundated with messages like the “pandemic is signaling the apocalypse” while simultaneously being told the pandemic is “just a flu” or “a government hoax”. Such conflicting and grossly inaccurate information is a breeding ground for confusion about the truth leading to increased doubts and panic.

There is no aspect of our lives the pandemic has left unblemished. Of course, the healthcare system of many countries took a crushing blow but the economy was also impacted. Subsequently, the financial consequences struck the youth as well. The effects of such consequences are exhibited by the frustration of freshly graduated students unable to find jobs and by the dejection of teenagers witnessing the unemployment of their parents. The financial instability in recent times has added to the doubts and anxieties of the youth about our futures and has certainly taken a toll on our mental health.

The rise of anxiety and other mental health issues in youth caused by the unpredictable nature of the pandemic should be acknowledged. Furthermore, there should be steps taken to mitigate these problems lest the situation worsens. I only pray that the pandemic will come to an end soon and we can all emerge on the other side of the tunnel into the light. 

About the author

The author is Aysha Noor, a 3rd year MBBS student from Shifa College of Medicine in Islamabad, Pakistan. She is affiliated with the Pakistani branch of International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA). Noor is passionate about raising awareness of mental health issues amongst youth and medical students. Noor wishes to educate the public in hopes that we can build a better and healthier society.

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