Anxiety rates have doubled among young people during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study.
University of Bristol experts analysed data from more than 3,000 Britons and found a quarter of people under the age of 28 had suspected anxiety disorder during the crisis, compared to 13 per cent pre-pandemic.
The scientists believe the ‘uncertainty and sudden change to everyday life’ sparked by the global outbreak and nationwide lockdown has contributed to the rise.
They also suggest the Government’s response – which has been criticised for being lacklustre – has made young people worry more.
It comes a week after University of Cambridge researchers warned depriving young people of social interaction could spark mental health problems later in life.
In an editorial in the Lancet, neuroscientists from the prestigious university said face-to-face contact is vital for brain growth and building a sense of self in under-25s.
The coronavirus lockdown could have long-term damaging effects on teenagers’ mental health, leading experts have warned (file)
University of Bristol researchers looked at data from 2,850 young people, children and teenagers about their mental health during the crisis.
Participants were recruited through the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALPSAC).
This study allowed researchers to determine a baseline for mental health before the pandemic.
The number of people with anxiety rose from 13 per cent before the pandemic to 24 per cent during the crisis.
Almost 8million Brits and HALF of under-25s have been affected by ‘lockdown loneliness’, official data suggests
The wellbeing of almost 8million Britons was affected by loneliness caused by the government’s coronavirus lockdown, official data suggests.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics of more than 5,500 people suggested 14.3 per cent of the population — or 7.4million people – have suffered loneliness in the past seven days.
Statisticians revealed this group of people, dubbed the ‘lockdown lonely’, tend to be young, single or divorced, and renting.
Half of those aged 16 to 24 were affected by ‘lockdown loneliness’, according to the survey, compared to just a quarter of those around their 60s.
Separate findings of the same survey, carried out on 5,000 Brits, revealed 5 per cent were ‘chronically lonely’ and admitted they felt alone ‘often or always’.
The data from The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey was collected from April 3 to May 3 and involved 5,260 adults.
Everyone in the survey was asked ‘How often do you feel lonely?’. Five per cent of said they were suffering chronic loneliness, which means they are lonely ‘often or always’ and not just in the past seven days.
This equates to 2.6million people across Great Britain.
But the researchers found that depression had actually fallen from 24 per cent to 18 per cent.
Writing in the study, which has not yet been published in a scientific journal or scrutinised by other scientists, the researchers said: ‘Depression usually relates to feelings of loss, whilst anxiety relates to threat.
‘As the majority of participants may not yet have lost anything (e.g., death of loved one, loss of job) this may also explain why depression has currently remained stable.’
Those diagnosed with, or suspected of having, Covid-19 reported higher depression and anxiety, as were those who did not have a garden.
Living alone during the pandemic was associated with higher depression, but not with higher anxiety.
The researchers, led by senior research associate Alex Siu Fung Kwong, said: ‘Approximately twice as many young adults experienced probable anxiety disorder and low wellbeing during the pandemic compared to previous waves.
‘While mental health is dynamic and changes over time, evidence suggests that mood disorders tend to stabilise throughout adulthood.
‘So the rise in anxiety and reduction in wellbeing goes against what we would expect in the absence of Covid-19.
The uncertainty and sudden change to everyday life, as well as concerns over health, may explain why anxiety, rather than depression, has initially risen.
‘The apparent rise in younger ages may reflect the impact of mitigation measures (i.e., lockdown and social distancing) rather than a risk of Covid-19 infection (which may be higher in older populations).’
It comes after University of Cambridge researchers warned lockdown could have long-term damaging effects on teenagers’ mental health.
Face-to-face social interaction is vital for brain development and building a sense of self between the age of 10 and 24.
Cambridge researchers warned depriving young people of this may lead to a host of mental health, behavioural and cognitive problems later in life.
In an editorial in the Lancet, neuroscientists from the prestigious university called for schools to reopen for young people as a priority to prevent long-term damage.
And despite being blamed for an explosion of mental health problems in recent years, the scientists say social media might actually have been the saving grace for teens during the pandemic.
The ability to interact with friends virtually may have mitigated some of the negative effects of physical distancing, they write.
Adolescence – defined by the scientists as between 10 and 24 – is a vulnerable stage in the development of a person.
On top of major hormonal changes and puberty, this is the point at which people want to spend more time with their friends than their family.
It is also the period in their life when they are most likely to develop mental health problems.
Earlier studies have suggested that high quality relationships with appear to protect people from mental health problems and strengthen their resilience.
Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, from the department of psychology at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the opinion piece, said lockdown could hamper their brain development and have consequences for years to come.
She said: ‘Owing to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many young people around the world currently have substantially fewer opportunities to interact face-to-face with peers in their social network at a time in their lives when this is crucial for their development.
‘Even if physical distancing measures are temporary, several months represents a large proportion of a young person’s life.
‘We would urge policymakers to give urgent consideration to the well-being of young people at this time.’