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The worst and the best: new insights into risk and resilience in young adults from the COVID-19 pandemic


Shanahan, Lilly; Johnson-Ferguson, Lydia; Loher, Michelle; Steinhoff, Annekatrin; Bechtiger, Laura; Murray, Aja Louise; Hepp, Urs; Ribeaud, Denis; Eisner, Manuel (2023). The worst and the best: new insights into risk and resilience in young adults from the COVID-19 pandemic. Adversity and resilience science, 4(3):291-305.

Abstract

Historic declines in young people’s mental health began to emerge before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of this youth mental health crisis, the pandemic constituted a naturalistic stressor paradigm that came with the potential to uncover new knowledge for the science of risk and resilience. Surprisingly, approximately 19-35% of people reported better well-being in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic than before. Therefore, in May and September 2020, we asked N=517 young adults from a cohort study to describe the best and the worst aspects of their pandemic lives (N=1,462 descriptions). Inductive thematic analysis revealed that the best aspects included the deceleration of life and a greater abundance of free time, which was used for hobbies, healthy activities, strengthening relationships, and for personal growth and building resilience skills. Positive aspects also included a reduction in educational pressures and work load and temporary relief from climate change concerns. The worst aspects included disruptions and changes to daily life; social distancing and restrictions of freedoms; negative emotions that arose in the pandemic situation, including uncertainty about the future; and the growing polarization of society. Science that aims to reverse the youth mental health crisis must pay increased attention to sources of young people’s distress that are not commonly measured (e.g., their educational, work, and time pressures; their fears and uncertainties about their personal, society’s, and the global future), and also to previously untapped sources of well-being – including those that young people identified for themselves while facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abstract

Historic declines in young people’s mental health began to emerge before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of this youth mental health crisis, the pandemic constituted a naturalistic stressor paradigm that came with the potential to uncover new knowledge for the science of risk and resilience. Surprisingly, approximately 19-35% of people reported better well-being in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic than before. Therefore, in May and September 2020, we asked N=517 young adults from a cohort study to describe the best and the worst aspects of their pandemic lives (N=1,462 descriptions). Inductive thematic analysis revealed that the best aspects included the deceleration of life and a greater abundance of free time, which was used for hobbies, healthy activities, strengthening relationships, and for personal growth and building resilience skills. Positive aspects also included a reduction in educational pressures and work load and temporary relief from climate change concerns. The worst aspects included disruptions and changes to daily life; social distancing and restrictions of freedoms; negative emotions that arose in the pandemic situation, including uncertainty about the future; and the growing polarization of society. Science that aims to reverse the youth mental health crisis must pay increased attention to sources of young people’s distress that are not commonly measured (e.g., their educational, work, and time pressures; their fears and uncertainties about their personal, society’s, and the global future), and also to previously untapped sources of well-being – including those that young people identified for themselves while facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Sociology
06 Faculty of Arts > Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development
Dewey Decimal Classification:370 Education
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Developmental and Educational Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Clinical Psychology
Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Social Sciences & Humanities > Psychology (miscellaneous)
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Environmental Science
Language:English
Date:1 September 2023
Deposited On:18 Aug 2023 09:30
Last Modified:29 Jun 2024 01:37
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:2662-2424
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s42844-023-00096-y
PubMed ID:37361562
Project Information:
  • : FunderJacobs Foundation
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderUniversity of Zurich
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)