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 Table of Contents  
REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 145-148

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of the younger generation: A review


Environment Health Malnutrition Research Foundation, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Date of Submission21-Dec-2021
Date of Decision02-Mar-2022
Date of Acceptance01-Jul-2022
Date of Web Publication29-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Pradnya V Kakodkar
Environment Health Malnutrition Research Foundation, South Bopal, Ahmedabad - 380 058, Gujarat
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/JME.JME_109_21

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  Abstract 


The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic in March 2020. It had opened doors to several issues that were never envisaged. The global economy and the health equilibrium were disturbed. This review systematically assesses and compiles the literature describing the influence of COVID-19 on the psychological or mental health of the younger generation. Databases such as PubMed, SCOPUS and Google Scholar were searched electronically for relevant data. The results indicate that the mental health of the younger generation was affected to a large extent. The school and college students had to adapt to the new way of online education. COVID-19 had affected childhood, family dynamics and students' lives in schools and colleges. It increased the number of domestic violence cases, which had severe effects on the mental health status of the younger generation.

Keywords: Adolescents, children, COVID-19, mental health, youth


How to cite this article:
Kakodkar PV, Singh RN, Agarwal S. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of the younger generation: A review. J Med Evid 2022;3:145-8

How to cite this URL:
Kakodkar PV, Singh RN, Agarwal S. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of the younger generation: A review. J Med Evid [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 5];3:145-8. Available from: http://www.journaljme.org/text.asp?2022/3/2/145/354978




  Introduction Top


In December 2019, a viral outbreak in Wuhan city of China had caused acute respiratory disease syndrome amongst people, and later, it had spread around the globe. The World Health Organization named the disease as COVID-19 in February 2020 and shortly after declared the COVID-19 outbreak as pandemic in March 2020. The pandemic had opened doors to several issues that were par from envisagement.

Experts from all over the world had foreseen the social, psychological and neuro-scientific consequences of COVID-19 amongst the people.[1] It affected the global economy and disturbed the health equilibrium. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, the mental health-related strain on the health system increased manifold.[2],[3] The general people were facing complications such as stress, anxiety, depression, irritability and insomnia,[4],[5] and this was more common in people who had COVID-19–related experience.[6],[7]

During the first wave, uncertainty, transmissibility, lack of treatment and precautions of the COVID-19 were the grounds behind climbing stress levels amongst people.[8],[9] Due to inevitable circumstances and to protect the people, strict measures such as complete lockdown, home isolation and the work from home concept emerged. In 2020, with the development of the vaccine, a drive to vaccinate all initiated. After that, the government normalised things too early, setting the stage for the second wave. The virus (SARS-CoV-2) that caused COVID-19 set out to develop variations. These variants with increased transmissibility caused a damaging variation in the epidemiology of COVID-19, enhanced the virulency, changed the clinical picture, decreased the efficacy of the available vaccines and therapeutics and thus reduced the efficiency of public health measures.[10] Out of several variants, the variant to concern is the Delta and the most recent Omicron variant.

Among all, students were the ones who suffered the most. Under normal conditions, the psychological distress among students was high due to academic stressors,[11] which became even more severe during the pandemic. The shifting of schools and colleges from offline to online mode on an emergency basis led to further increased academic stressors.[12]

Against this background, it is visible that the people are un-stabilised mentally, and the young generations are affected to a much larger extent. The present review aims to systematically assess and summarise the available research literature on younger generation regarding the influence of COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and further recommend measures for improvement.


  Methodology Top


This is a secondary or desk research paper. The review was undertaken from July to December 2021. Databases such as PubMed, SCOPUS and Google Scholar were searched electronically. Mental health, child, school children, college students and COVID-19 were the search keywords. Articles publishing primary data regarding the impact of mental health on the younger generation (schoolchildren, adolescents and college students) during the COVID-19 pandemic were only considered. Case reports, review articles and letters to the editor were excluded. The article fulfilling the inclusion and exclusion criteria were retrieved, read in full, analysed and summarised under four headings.


  Results and Discussion Top


Childhood and mental health

During childhood, sound mental health is as important as physical health for achieving developmental milestones.[13] The children were less physically affected by the disease through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the likelihood that their mental health remained stable cannot be said.[14],[15] Since March 2020, to limit the spread of COVID-19, the children were forced to be at home as schools were closed in India. Reports showed different psychological and mental effects among children such as paranoia, monotony, anxiety, depression, irritation, anguish, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute panic, obsessive behaviours and diverse neuropsychiatric symptoms.[16] This COVID-19 pandemic disturbed the well-being of the children and adolescents,[17],[18] which may have been due to the complex range of factors such as uncertainty, social isolation and parental angst.[14] Further, inability to undertake extracurricular activities and socialisation with friends in the outdoor environment also changed their day-to-day practices.

Family dynamics and mental health

In the initial developmental years of life, the children need complete care, affection and attachment from parents. Any form of interruption in this relation with parents can impact the life of the child.[16] Due to the pandemic, the children faced different unique situations. Due to the pandemic, the children faced different unique situations. They were parted from their parents due to reasons like: parents infected with COVID 19 were in isolation or quarantine and those parents who were doing healthcare work were in isolation for precautionary measures. It was found that the separation of children from their most important people who gave them care made the child more susceptible and prone to mental health disturbances.[19],[20],[21] Apart from this, during the lockdown, parents had to work from home and also handle their wards at home. Some parents had to face unfortunate situations such as sickness, death of friends and family, salary reduction or loss of job.[22] Christner et al.[23] conducted an online survey in Germany and examined children's problem behaviour on three dimensions: emotional symptoms, conduct problems and hyperactivity/inattention. It was observed that children having a single parent showed more emotional signs. Further, amplified emotive indicators and hyperactivity/inattention were observed among the single child compared to the child with siblings. These kinds of problems in the behaviour of the children were inversely related to the parental education. As against this background, it is clear that this pandemic has brought about a change in the family dynamics which has impacted the mental health of many of the children.

Domestic violence and mental health

Home is the safest place for the child; however, during the COVID-19 lockdown, the rise in domestic violence incidents was at a 10-year high.[16] During the lockdown period, the schools and legal and preventative services were closed,[24] and hence, many of the cases went unreported because children were rarely in a situation to report abuse, violence and harm. It was reported that the most common behavioural and psychosocial problems noticed were clinginess, inattention, distraction and fear of asking questions about the pandemic.[16] Pandemic posed a very unique scenario; the parents and children/adolescents were at home for the maximum amount of time. Probably, disturbed mental health situation of the parents and intolerable behaviour of the child would have led to domestic violence.

Mental health of adolescents and youth

Around the globe, COVID-19 has comprehensively affected the daily mundane of college students. Due to lockdown, the colleges moved from offline to online modes of education without ample infrastructure, resulting in the student getting debarred from society and friends, quality education, counselling from teachers, job opportunities, etc., These obstacles unknowingly imbibed in their mind and made them mentally ill.

Various surveys all over the world also dictate the same story. A study conducted by Zhang et al.[25] among Chinese established that 38% of the population had experienced a level of anxiety during the first COVID wave. An interview survey conducted by Son et al.[26] among university students in the US found that 71% of the students were in accordance with increased stress and anxiety due to COVID-19. The reasons propounded by the students were health-related fear, concentration difficulties, irregular bedtime, reduced social interaction and worry regarding academic performance. Faisal et al.[27] found that 72% had depression symptoms among Bangladeshi students, 77% had tension and 88% were afraid of the future due to COVID-19. Furthermore, the students were more active on social media.[28] This was contemplated as one of the reasons for mental health deterioration.[29] The social isolation, interruption in daily activities, changing norms, uncertain COVID-19 treatment plan, insufficient vaccination, misinformation and uncertainty of treatment were other reasons for the increase in anxiety and stress among Bangladeshi students.[30],[31],[32] Another survey on Indian students found out that around 68% of students had high fear regarding COVID-19, 51% had severe anxiety levels and 28% had moderate-to-severe depression. It was also noted that the student anxiety and depression level was high if some of their family members had suffered from COVID-19.[33] Further, a study found that older adolescents and youth were anxious about cancelling examinations, exchange programs and academic events.[34] During the COVID-19 pandemic period, there have been reports of panic buying[35] and hoarding behaviour[36] seen amongst the adults and teenage. This kind of conduct during the time of distress indicates an instinctual survival behaviour.[35]

Among students, the effect of COVID-19 on medical students was most vulnerable. An online survey was conducted among the medical students of Jordan; 56.2% of students stated that their stress level got impacted due to COVID-19, more than 70% stated that their physical fitness got affected and around 65% stated that their social relations got impacted.[37] COVID-19 also impacted their study, finance, sleeping quality and eating routine. When asked about measures they took to negate the COVID-19 impact, around 68% stated that they started practicing their hobbies such as playing and listening to music or engaged in cooking and baking.

Measures for improvement

A high percentage of children are experiencing mental health problems. Different psychological intervention strategies and recovery methods at the family front can help improve the mental health status of children,[38] viz., improvement in financial conditions, stable job, literacy of parents and taking good care of children. Helpline numbers provided for mental health counselling are helpful as people have taken advice on anxiety and adjustment issues.[16] In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued strategies to take care of children's mental health during COVID-19.[39] The simple strategy that the parents can note down is providing assurance whenever needed, keeping them in contact with their friends, managing your child's anxiety, giving them clear information, engaging them in indoor activities and making a learning routine at home. Peer group counselling, helpline, psychological intervention strategy and self-motivation can be helpful measures for adolescents and youth. Apart from this, teachers also play a very crucial role in identifying and treating mentally ill students. Suppose a student is spotted, by the screening process, facing emotional difficulties, in that case, the school needs to have a pre-planned action to connect the student to the support services or group counselling.[40],[41],[42]


  Conclusion Top


There is a wide spectrum of mental health problems. In the different stages of the pandemic, different consequences are recorded. During the intense, first wave of the pandemic, the major mental health burden was due to social distancing, increased pressure on families and reduced access to support services.[16] Further, as the pandemic progressed with lesser intensity in the present time, mental health disturbances will be the result of economic recession, consequences of anxiety, stress and violence exposure. The pandemic is in its initial stages, and hence, not much is known about the long-term mental health effects on children and adolescents. Various studies need to be conducted in the future to assess the influence of the pandemic on psychological/mental health.[34] A child or adolescent may not show any observable or reported symptoms of distress or may lead them later.[42] Hence, we have to keep a close watch on the children, and for the youth and adolescents, continuous monitoring of their well-being is needed.

Acknowledgement

The authors wish to thank Tata Engage for providing the opportunity to render volunteering service as ProEngager.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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