Hope for British teenagers’ mental health: study reveals high loneliness and anxiety.
By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 11, 2023
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A recent study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation sheds light on the mental health of British teenagers. While there are signs of hope and resilience among young people, the study also reveals that many teenagers are still grappling with the lingering effects of the pandemic, including high levels of loneliness and anxiety.
Encouraging Signs Amidst Challenges
Catherine Seymour, Head of Research at the Mental Health Foundation, shares that the study collected data in late May and June when young people were returning to school, pandemic restrictions were easing, and vaccinations were being rolled out. The data indicates a decrease in the number of teenagers reporting “poor” mental health compared to the previous survey conducted in March.
Pessimism about the future has also declined, although it remains prevalent. In the previous survey, 65% of teenagers expressed concerns about their future, but this number has now dropped to 57%. Additionally, fewer teenagers reported experiencing symptoms associated with depression, such as sleep problems, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, and low self-esteem.
Loneliness Persists, Amplifying Vulnerability
While these positive trends are encouraging, the study highlights the persisting issue of loneliness among teenagers. Loneliness suggests a lack of nourishing relationships that help young people navigate challenging times, leaving them more susceptible to mental health struggles. Surprisingly, levels of loneliness in the latest survey remain similar to those reported in March 2021.
The findings reveal that 64% of teenagers surveyed admitted to sometimes or often having no one to talk to, while 66% experienced occasional or frequent feelings of isolation. This highlights the urgent need to address the issue of loneliness among teenagers and promote the importance of meaningful connections in their lives.
Anxiety Continues to Be a Concern
Anxiety remains a common challenge for British teenagers. The study shows that 43% expressed worry about another lockdown, 45% were concerned about their loved ones falling ill with COVID-19, and 32% were anxious about the loss of someone close to them. Additionally, 39% experienced significant concerns about the impact of the pandemic on their mental health. Certain groups, including females, teenagers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, full-time students, those with long-term health conditions and disabilities, and 18- to 19-year-olds, experience higher levels of anxiety and distress.
Addressing Inequalities and Promoting Resilience
Professor Ann John of Swansea University emphasizes that economic adversity and pre-existing mental and physical health challenges significantly affect teenagers’ mental health. Additionally, the late teens present a critical period of rapid social and emotional changes and life transitions, making it more difficult for some teenagers to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic. To prevent further widening of these inequalities, comprehensive policies and practical initiatives are needed.
Efforts to support teenagers’ mental health must extend beyond mental health services and include accessible employment, training, education opportunities, financial safety nets for families, and affordable housing. By addressing these broader societal factors, we can ensure that the pandemic does not have long-lasting effects on teenagers’ futures.
A Call to Action
The study, supported by MQ Mental Health Research, highlights the urgent need for increased support for the mental health of children and young people in the wake of the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has accentuated the historical underfunding of mental health resources and research for young individuals. As we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic, it is crucial to focus on leveling up support for the most vulnerable groups and adopting a holistic approach to mental health.
The positive changes in wellbeing reported by young people in the survey are an encouraging first step towards recovery. However, much more needs to be done to ensure the long-term health of the COVID-19 generation. Organizations like MQ Mental Health Research and the Mental Health Foundation are committed to addressing these issues and driving positive change. It is now up to governments, institutions, and society as a whole to prioritize the mental health of young people and invest in their futures.