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Coping strategies made a difference to young people’s mental well-being during pandemic

Written by on 8th June 2021

A new report, published today (08.06.21) by Public Health Wales, identifies a range of activities and behaviours that helped young people deal with the difficult changes to their lives during the pandemic.  

Spending time outside, keeping physically active, engaging in creative activities and hobbies, establishing routines, maintaining contact with friends online and being aware of the nature of Coronavirus and how to prevent its spread all helped reduce the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic.

Key findings of the publication included:

  • The pandemic resulted in some positive impacts for some young people (for example, feeling relief from social pressure and bullying, spending more time with families, taking up new hobbies, and having the time to adopt healthier behaviours)
  • However, evidence overwhelmingly points to a negative impact on all aspects of mental well-being among children and young people, including:

o   Parents struggling to cope, and feelings of loneliness and isolation because of social distancing were associated with worse outcomes for young people.

o   Educational disruption, school closures, and lack of access to support at school were responsible for many of the worries and anxieties children and young people have been experiencing

Age was found to be one of the clearest determinants of mental well-being. Adolescents and young adults exhibit depression, anxiety, and other adverse outcomes more so than older adults or younger peers

  • Evidence suggests young women and girls were more severely affected by the pandemic than their male counterparts
  • Increased calls to helplines indicate a possible rise in children who experienced abuse and violence at home during lockdown, which adversely impacted mental health
  • Families on lower incomes and young people not in education or employment experienced the adverse impact of the pandemic much more severely

Factors that served to mitigate some of the negative implications of the pandemic included spending time outside, establishing routines, and being aware of the nature of the virus and its spread

  • The improvement in wellbeing measures for all age groups at the end of summer 2020 (when restrictions were eased and schools fully reopened), may suggest that some negative impacts of the pandemic could be short lived. However, further analysis of data from the most recent lockdown period is needed to fully understand the impacts.

Nerys Edmonds, Principal Health Impact Assessment Practitioner at Public Health Wales, said:

“Although Coronavirus has undoubtedly had far reaching negative impacts on our younger population, it is important for us to learn where these impacts have been the most profound and what has helped so far to mitigate these impacts.

impacts.

“Our young people have shown remarkable resilience and we will be examining what can now be put in place to support their recovery, help them build a happy future, as well as ensuring that mental health and well-being are fully considered in future plans for public health emergencies.”

Public Health Wales commissioned Alma Economics to review the research evidence on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated government measures on the mental well-being of babies, children, and young people.

‘The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental wellbeing of children and young people in Wales: literature review’ was conducted using a series of existing survey data and published research studies, to identify mental health challenges that young people experienced and some of the protective factors that helped to safeguard their mental health and well-being throughout the pandemic

This report, along with evidence from talking to young people and teachers in Wales, will help inform a detailed Mental Well-being Impact Assessment (MWIA) Report, that will provide recommendations and is due to be published later this year.