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Mental health of 16-24-year-olds worst affected by lockdown

More than two in five young adults say their mental health has been negatively impacted by lockdown.

New consumer research from Aviva reveals the extent to which young adults in the UK have been impacted by the succession of lockdowns, with 16-24 year-olds the most likely age group to report that lockdown has had a negative impact on their mental health.

More than two in five young adults (47%) said their mental health has been negatively impacted by lockdown, compared to a UK average of just under one in three (31%).

Young adults also reported higher levels of anxiety and low happiness levels compared to other UK adult groups. When asked how they felt the previous day, nearly half (48%) of 16-24-year-olds said they felt anxious compared to 33% of all adults.

A quarter (25%) of 16-24-year-olds also reported feeling unhappy the previous day. With around 600,000 jobs held by those aged 24 or under on furlough this Spring1 and with 36% of all UK adults estimated to be working exclusively at home during the early 2021 lockdown, young people, in particular, have been vulnerable to the negative health impacts of lockdown at home, with many living alone.

Perhaps as a result of the high levels of furlough amongst this age group, 16-24 year olds were least likely to say that the things they do in life are worthwhile, with 57% young adults saying this compared to the UK average of 64% adults.

Negative impacts of lockdown

Overall, three in ten (30%) of UK 16-24-year-olds said their personal experience of lockdown had been negative. Almost half (47%) say the impact on their mental health has been negative, while three in ten (31%) young adults say lockdown has negatively impacted their physical health.

A third (32%) say it has negatively impacted their finances. The research also highlights that boredom (44%) and feelings of loneliness and isolation (39%) are heightened for our youngest UK adult generation. 16-24-year-olds also were more likely to be generally anxious about the virus and in particular more anxious about their future health than other age groups.

When asked how any time saved from a lack of commuting was used, the most common response for 16-24 year-olds was sleeping (42%) followed by watching television or listening to the radio (40%), although three in ten (30%) did use this time to do more exercise.

shallow focus photo of person in white scoop-neck T-shirt

Anxiety around the ending of final lockdown restrictions

While a third (34%) of 16-24-year-olds are looking forward to meeting friends in large groups when the lockdown restrictions are fully lifted and a similar number (32%) are looking forward to going on holiday, more than half (54%) said they were anxious about the final ending of restrictions.

Of those who said they were anxious about the final lifting of measures, two in five (43%) 16-24-year-olds said it was because they had become more socially introverted, while a similar number (40%) said their anxiety around lockdown lifting was driven by worries about the virus.

A third (34%) said they were worried about keeping up with the pace of normal life and one in five (22%) were worried that their work/life balance would deteriorate.

Dr Subashini M, associate medical director at Aviva UK Health, said: ‘The succession of national and local lockdowns during the last 16 months has had a profound impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of everybody in the UK, but our consumer research suggests it has had a disproportionate impact on the mental health of our youngest generations across the nation.

‘Our claims data for our UK group private medical insurance customers bears this out, as we’ve seen a 100% increase in the numbers of young employees and their dependents seeking help through our mental health pathway since January.

‘Three-quarters of these claims through our employer customers are by young females, with only a quarter of the claims made by young males seeking help, even though we know that mental health issues do not discriminate.

‘It’s vital that anyone struggling with anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed, bored, lonely or unhappy seeks help and takes steps to create good habits to support their mental and emotional wellbeing.

‘Our wider Wellbeing services can also help private medical insurance customers look after other aspects of their lives that can impact mental health, such as diet, fitness and financial wellbeing.’

How can I tell if someone I know is struggling with their mental health?

Mental health issues usually begin with subtle changes in someone’s feelings, thinking and behaviour that then become an ongoing or a bigger issue.

A useful gauge of whether someone might be struggling with their mental health is to consider how they’ve changed. If you’ve known them for a while, you’ll know their usual habits, behaviours or moods.

Some common changes include:
• Drinking too much – or more than usual – or started using other substances
• Having emotional outbursts or displaying erratic behaviour
• Suddenly losing weight or having a change in appetite
• Being quieter or more withdrawn than usual
• Criticising or blaming themselves for everything
• Looking tired all the time and saying they’re not sleeping well
• Turning up for work late or leaving early often
• Becoming unreliable, missing deadlines or disappearing for long periods
• Being secretive about their whereabouts and feelings

If a family member, colleague or friend is showing any of the above signs, don’t jump to conclusions. Check in with them. Ask them if they’re okay and remind them that you’ll listen if they need to speak to someone.

If you don’t feel able to do that – ask someone closer to them to speak to them instead. People usually feel safer sharing if they think you understand their perspective. So, if you or someone you know have struggled with mental health issues, consider sharing this if you feel safe doing so.

Photo Credit – Brooke Cagle

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