Posted: 25 September 2020

Young people's mental health and well-being during Covid-19

The Covid-19 crisis has turned many childhoods upside down and for young people who were already struggling, life will seem even more of a challenge.

Children’s well-being has been in decline since 2009 and this outbreak has undoubtedly created difficulties for those having to cope with widespread changes to their daily life.

Currently one in eight children aged 5-19 have a diagnosable mental health condition. We are concerned that Covid-19 may result in heightened feelings of anxiety and worry and could exacerbate low mood and other mental health conditions.

Worrying times

Even with schools reopened, young people are directly experiencing social distancing, high levels of isolation and wider dislocation. They’ll also be exposed to endless news stories and social commentaries about the virus.

From our Good Childhood research, we know that young people worry about society and global issues, so we would expect levels of worry to be high during this crisis. 

For young people with anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD and serious physical health conditions, the restrictions caused by Covid-19 are extremely challenging. Mental health services will struggle to deal with demand as staff have to isolate, appointments have to be rescheduled and waiting times increase. The uncertainty of support will be damaging for many children’s well-being.

Home alone

Even with most young people not attending school, they are still spending a lot more time at home with family and carers, and less time with their friends. We know that familial relationships are an important building block in children’s well-being.

The impact Covid-19 might have on family members or carers who are older or vulnerable could have significant impact on children’s well-being. Plus, being at home and not having the autonomy and choice they’re used to could by quite damaging. 

Similarly, spending less time with friends can impact children’s well-being, especially for those who can’t get online, don’t feel confident with it, or experience cyberbullying. This disconnection can increase feelings of loneliness and lower well-being.

Money and the future 

We know that children growing up in households with problem debt are five times more likely then other children to have low well-being. The consequences of loss of income due to Covid-19 will be significant.

It may also impact how they think about their future, possibly worrying about the consequences for their family.

Looking into lives on hold 

During the lockdown, we have been talking to young people to get in idea of how they are feeling. Our latest briefing, Life on Hold, shows that children's well-being is being affected. Young people feel they have less choice and their parents are concerned about the long term effects.

For more information on how the pandemic has affected young people's well-being, read our Life on Hold Report. 


By Kaja Zuvac-Graves

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