For young people with mental health issues before the pandemic, restrictions may have helped

Updated: Aug 23


Image credit: Victor B.

Many adolescents with mental health issues prior to the pandemic may have benefitted from pandemic restrictions, a new study suggests.


Of the many studies into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people, the general consensus has pointed to an overall negative effect – one report even revealed a doubling of cases of depression and anxiety among adolescents.


But it seems that restrictions may have also been beneficial for those struggling with issues before the pandemic began.


A new study of 10- to 16-year-olds in the UK reveals that young people with lower than average pre-pandemic mental health experienced improvements in their mood, possibly due to less incidences of fighting and bullying.


At the same time though, young people with better than average mental health, emotional and conduct problems, hyperactivity, and social interaction issues increased.


The data comes from a sample of 886 adolescents who took part in the Understanding Society COVID-19 Survey – an ongoing analysis of how the pandemic is impacting the welfare of individuals, their families, and communities.


Participants are asked to complete a survey every month which includes questions related to living conditions, general health, employment, and wellbeing.


Read more: Teenage cases of depression and anxiety more than doubled during pandemic

The latest wave of survey findings also reveals the relationship between social and economic status and the level of impact the pandemic has had on young people.


For adolescents with high-earning parents, a bigger reduction in conduct problems and a smaller increase in hyperactivity and social issues was observed.


In contrast, those from a one-parent, low-income household experienced a sharper decline in their mental health.


According the the authors, the findings suggest the need for more tailored approaches to protecting the mental health of young people impacted by the pandemic.


“Adolescents are at a critical stage of their lives and the detrimental impact of the pandemic on their mental health can undermine their immediate wellbeing and harm their long-term development,” said Yang Hu, senior lecturer in sociology and data science at Lancaster University.


“It is clear from our findings that efforts should be made to mitigate the mental health impact of the pandemic on children and adolescents – an issue that has not yet been featured in key public health and policy conversations."


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health