The effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of young people

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Shekinah Amaka Obinna, a Nigerian and currently a medical student at Sumy State University, Sumy, Ukraine. 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 prevalent COVID-19 pandemic has become a worldwide concern affecting the quality of people’s life. Aside the countless number of deaths that has been recorded, one major aspect that is strongly affected is the mental health of the population especially that of the young people.  The youth make up about 16% of the world’s population.

The most energetic period of life is the youthful age. It is the peak of liveliness where a lot of adventure, excitement and enthusiasm take place but with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, it has taken a whole downturn of events especially on mental health of the population.

According to World Health Organization (W.H.O), mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

There are three components of mental well-being: emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Majority of the youth are still in their learning years and so are affected greatly with their academics.

  1. There is decreased academic performance due to online or distant learning.
  2. Lack of motivation.
  3.  Absence of interactive learning environment.
  4. Distraction caused by internet, social media, video games and the likes.

Generally, the onset of COVID-19 outbreak has lowered emotional wellbeing by 74%. Under normal circumstance, there is high evidence that being outdoor is associated with a wide range of positive emotions. With conditions of social distancing where outdoor activities are severely reduced and restricted, the feelings of loneliness can be heightened.

Increase screen time may interfere with face to face interactions which may lead to mood alterations, boredom, irritability and anger. Individual emotional burdens such as unemployment and financial insecurities are other stressors.

Young people who have suffered from serious COVID-19 illness or who have lost family members or loved ones battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a study of home quarantined youths in China, during the first month of COVID-19 outbreak, 12.8% had post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) levels consistent with PTSS and distress associated with negative coping styles. Symptom levels were expected to increase with time as quarantine continued.

In August 2020, the Centres for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) published results of a large U.S web-based survey of more than 5000 adults. Suicidal ideation was significantly said to be higher for younger respondents aged 18-24 years with percentage 25.5%.

Neuropsychiatric symptoms like insomnia, anxiety and depression have been associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interventions like use of interactive internet based platforms, safe communal activities like book clubs, movies, bingo and outdoor family visits on lawns or in parking lots with precautions of social distancing and personal protective equipment can be implemented to reduce isolation among young people.

New treatment options like telehealth to identify and treat mental health conditions can be executed.


  1. Phebe Tucker, MD & Christopher S. Czapla, MD (2021). Post-COVID Stress Disorder: – Another Emerging Consequence of the Global pandemic. Psychiatric Times, 38(1), pp. 1-2. 
  2. Stieger, S et al., (2021). Emotional well-Being Under Conditions of Lockdown: An Experience Sampling Study in Austria during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Happiness Studies, pp. 1-2.

About the author

Shekinah Amaka Obinna, is a Nigerian and currently a medical student at Sumy State University, Sumy, Ukraine.

She is a holder of a number of certificates with reputable institutions around the world.  She has several international memberships; amongst them are Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, Impact Youth Sustainability, and World Medical Association.

She recently served as one of the Ambassadors for Women History Month of Wayfoundation, India.

She is a G4G Ambassador and promotes STEMI initiatives.

She currently works as a reviewer for Harvard Public Health Review.

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