Psychologists study impact of lockdown on young people

University of Sheffield and Ulster University academics will study why some young people are not adhering to physical distancing rules, as well as measuring rates of anxiety and depression.

Young people walking on a street with social distancing markers

Psychologists at the University of Sheffield and Ulster University have launched a study into how young people are coping with the coronavirus lockdown, and why some may not be following government guidelines on physical distancing.

The team is surveying a UK representative group of 2,000 13-24-year-olds to examine the impact of the pandemic on young people at different stages of development and identify the factors influencing their mental resilience. They expect to publish initial results in around two weeks’ time, and will survey the same group in the future to investigate the longer term impacts of the crisis on their wellbeing.

Those taking part will answer questions about their current circumstances, wellbeing, experiences with Covid-19 and engagement with physical distancing guidelines.

The psychologists aim to measure rates of anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms among these young people. They will assess whether factors like family relationships and background increase their risk of pandemic-related mental health issues, and how their wellbeing affects their level of adherence to lockdown rules.

So far, little research has been done into how the pandemic is specifically affecting young people, so the experts hope this study will inform future government policy designed to support them and their parents and carers during and after the lockdown.

Dr Liat Levita, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield and principal investigator of the study, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has brought enormous uncertainty for young people studying for exams, hoping to start university and entering the world of work. Our study will uncover the impact this unprecedented lockdown is having on their mental health and help to explain why some are breaking physical distancing rules.

“In order for the government to deliver the support young people need to come through this crisis, we urgently need to understand how it feels to be growing up during a pandemic.”

The study is being conducted by the University of Sheffield and Ulster University Covid-19 Psychological Research Consortium – a group of clinical, developmental and health psychologists, as well as political scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Ulster, with additional collaborators from University College London, Liverpool and Royal Holloway and Bedford College.

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