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 Mr. Abdul-Rahman Toufik, a medical student at Sumy State University. He 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.

            In December 2019, a new strain of virus (SARS-CoV2) from a large family of viruses called coronavirus took the world by surprise, with its adverse effects on almost all aspects of life. It causes the respiratory illness COVID-19 that is associated with physical symptoms like cough, diarrhea, shortness of breath etc. which are the main effects that seems to have the world’s attention. However, less attention has been paid to its psychological effects on people especially the youth.

           In the Sub-Saharan Africa, the pandemic has led to the mental problems due to the disease experience, physical distancing from love ones, stigma and discrimination, job losses in many other settings hardest hit by the pandemic.  Health workers, patients with Covid-19 and other illness are facing post-traumatic stress disorders(PTSD), anxiety, depression and insomnia.  This is how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of the youth in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

            A recent poll conducted by the UNICEF shows that the pandemic crisis is having a significant impact on the mental health of young people in Latin America and Caribbean.  The rapid assessment amplified the voices of 8,444 adolescents and young people between 13 and 29 in nine countries and territories in the region. The report gives account of the feelings faced in the first month of the response to the pandemic. Among the participants, 27% reported feeling anxiety and 15% depression in the last 7 days of September 2020. For 30% the main reason influencing their current emotions is the economic situations.

             A cross sectional study was also conducted two weeks after the occurrence of the pandemic in China. A total of 584 youths enrolled in the study. Univariate analysis and univariate logistic regression were used to evaluate the effects of COVID-19 on the youth’s mental health.  The results cross sectional study suggests; 40.4% the sampled youth were found prone to psychological problems and 14.4% the sampled youth with post-traumatic stress disorders(PTSD) symptoms. The logistic regression revealed that the youth mental health was significantly related to being less educated (how the Covid-19 has affected their educational standards and academic calendar), some being enterprise employees (as to how the pandemic has kept them out of their work). The youth study group shows the tendency of having psychological problems.

            Lastly a research study conducted by Cuiyan Wang his team to compare mental health status during the pandemic in general population with seven middle income countries in Asia including China, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam indicated that Thailand has the highest score of depression, anxiety and stress with risk factors including  people less than 30 years of age, high education background, single and separated status, discrimination by other countries and contact with people with COVID-19.


(“The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of adolescents and youth” 2020) Retrieved from

Liang, L., Ren, H., Cao, R. et al. The Effect of COVID-19 on Youth Mental Health. Psychiatr Q 91, 841–852 (2020).

Wang C, Tee M, Roy AE, Fardin MA, Srichokchatchawan W, Habib HA, et al. (2021) The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental health of Asians: A study of seven middle-income countries in Asia. PLoS ONE 16(2): e0246824. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0246824

About the author

 Abdul-Rahman Toufik is a medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine with a diploma in International Environmental Law and Governance with the “United Nations Environmental Law and Conventions”. He is the CEO and founder of Toufik’s World Organization and currently an Editorial Board Member of the Harvard Public Health Review. In his spare time, he likes to read, play video games, watch football or listen to music.

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