The national COVID-19 lockdowns across Europe are having an alarming effect on young people under 30, according to new research, with many experiencing the highest levels of loneliness.
From fear of losing your job and worries about loved ones getting sick to not being able to see people in support networks, the COVID-19 lockdowns are massively impacting young people, in particular those with pre-existing mental health issues, according to new findings.
Using data from 200,000 citizens across Europe, the findings from the research project ‘Standing together – at a distance’, which has been carried out by the University of Copenhagen, University College London, Sorbonne University, INSERM and others, suggests that the subgroups identified by the study as particularly prone to experiencing loneliness and anxiety should be closely followed to prevent future challenges.
A crisis for young people
As part of the collaborative network COVID-Minds researchers have collected and analysed mental health data from Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the UK, during the first lockdown in the spring and summer of 2020. In all of the countries, the highest levels of loneliness and anxiety were observed in March and early April, in the very beginning of the lockdown.
The researchers say that despite different approaches to handling the pandemic by each country, the mental health reactions are quite similar, and action must be taken to avoid long-term consequences, and stress that mental health should be a concern parallel to containing the virus.
Assistant Professor Tibor Varga, from the Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, said: “We have studied different mental health factors such as loneliness, anxiety, and COVID-19 related worries. The highest levels of loneliness were observed amongst young people and people with pre-existing mental health illness.
“Psychological stress is a prominent risk factor for future long-term and severe mental illness. Therefore, it is very important to know how lockdowns affect people, so we have a better chance of preventing long-term consequences.”
“Mental health has emerged as a quite important parallel concern of this pandemic. While we, of course, need to contain the spread of the virus and deal with the obvious emergencies at hand, we also need to pay attention to the potential damaging psychiatric aftermath,” added Professor Naja Hulvej Rod from Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.
“People under 30 and people with a history of mental illness could benefit from tailored public-health interventions to prevent or counteract the negative effects of the pandemic.”