While most people experienced worsening mental health during lockdown, a study finds that one in three young people actually had improved wellbeing
The mental health situation of lockdown became bleak for many people. After the initial two months, the freewheeling sensation of existing amidst a global pandemic became overwhelming. For some, lockdown was not truly an option – key workers in every sector continued to go to work. For those with immunocompromised systems or living in care homes, isolation became the norm.
However, for some people, the lockdown freed up time. Morning and evening commutes were eradicated, leaving time for loved ones. For children and young peopled aged between eight to 18, their experiences of education were vastly different to what came before them.
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Emma Soneson, a PhD student and Gates Scholar at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, said: “The common narrative that the pandemic has had overwhelmingly negative effects on the lives of children and young people might not tell the full story. In fact, it seems as though a sizeable number of children and young people may have experienced what they felt was improved wellbeing during the first national lockdown of 2020.
“After hearing from patients in our clinical practice and informally from several parents and young people that they thought the lockdown was beneficial for their or their child’s mental health, we decided to look at this trend.”
In this study, conducted during June and July 2020, over 17,000 students spoke to researchers about their experiences of the pandemic, school, home life and relationships. It has been published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
According to the data, one in three young people felt that their mental health and wellbeing actually improved during the first lockdown. This could be to do with avoiding bullying, getting more sleep, and feeling less lonely.
So, why did young people enjoy the lockdown?
1. They avoided bullies
Young people were able to exit the peer relationships that harmed them – mainly, bullying. Those who had actually been subject to bullying the year before found that they experienced less bullying in 2020, for obvious reasons. This specific subgroup of kids reported their wellbeing up by 92%.
2. They got more sleep and exercise
The daily early schedules of school, the commute to get there, the fuss behind organising all of this movement when parental energy is low. For half of the people reporting increased wellbeing, there was an increase in sleep and exercise. Exactly 49% of those who reported enjoying the lockdown of 2020 also reported sleeping more.
3. They spent more time with family
Young people were also able to spend more time with their families, which seemed sometimes to help them resolve tensions at home. For instance, the students who reported getting along with household members also reported higher mental wellbeing, at 53%.
Professor Peter Jones, from Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, said: “What we’ve seen is a complex mix of factors that affect whether a child’s mental health and wellbeing was affected by the lockdown. These range from their mental health before the pandemic through to their relationships with their families and peers, and their attitudes towards school.”