Living in a pandemic: what are the effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of the youth?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Marija Aleksandraitytė, a third-year public health student at the Public Health Faculty of Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Lithuania. 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.


The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on people’s physical and mental health. People had to adapt quickly to changed circumstances, take care and protect others, socialize with friends and loved ones remotely. These aspects could cause stress, anxiety, or even depression. The question arises: how has this pandemic affected youth?

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, schools and universities were closed. Young people needed to find a way to learn and socialize remotely. Based on UNESCO data 826 million students don’t have access to use a computer at home [1]. Another very important aspect is ensuring the human rights of young people. However, these days there are still a lot of cases of online bullying, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse. In the face of the pandemic, child labor has increased and for youth in many countries is difficult to find a job [2]. The International Labour Organization (ILO) research shows that 1 in 6 people stopped working since the COVID-19 pandemic began [3].

There has also been an increase in cases of mental disorders. UNICEF has researched in 9 countries and found that more than 1 in 4 young people feel anxiety and 1 in 7 people feel depression in the last seven days. One of the main reasons respondents identified having less motivation to do daily activities and also named the economic situation. It is important to mention that even 2 of 5 respondents do not seek help in case of emotional difficulties [4].

Due to a growing problem, it is necessary to encourage non-governmental organizations to contribute to reducing inequalities between young people in different countries by providing youth with the necessary learning materials, governments to increase child benefits and ensure a safe environment [5]. Young people should also strengthen their emotional health by creating a proper work and rest routine, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. It should also be remembered to keep in touch with loved ones and have activities that a person enjoys [6]. These several main aspects can help to overcome not only the emotional crises and difficulties that especially occur in young people during pandemics, but also strengthen the concept of health as comprehensive well-being.

References

1.UNESCO. Startling digital divides in distance learning emerge. 2020. Source: https://en.unesco.org/news/startling-digital-divides-distance-learning-emerge

2.Lodding L, A Watershed Moment for Business: the effects of COVID-19 young people. Global Child Forum. Source: https://www.globalchildforum.org/blog/the-effects-of-covid-19-on-young-people/

3.International Labour Organization. ILO: More than one in six young people out of work due to COVID-19. 2020. Source: https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_745879/lang–en/index.htm

4.UNICEF. The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of adolescents and youth. Source: https://www.unicef.org/lac/en/impact-covid-19-mental-health-adolescents-and-youth

5.Mental Health Foundation. Mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic. Recommendations for prevention. Source: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/MHF%20Mental%20Health%20in%20the%20COVID-19%20Pandemic.pdf

6.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Coping with stress. 2021. Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html 

About the author

This article was written for The European Sting by Ms. Marija Aleksandraitytė, a third-year public health student at the Public Health Faculty of Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Lithuania. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Association (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.

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