The outbreak of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the measures taken in response have had a major impact on public health. For the next five years, this impact will be studied in the Integrated Health Monitor COVID-19. One of the studies conducted within this research programme is a literature review. In this study, the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (Nivel) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) are reviewing relevant national and international scientific literature about the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the physical and mental health of young people in the Netherlands (aged 0 to 25 years).

First literature review

The first literature review was published on 24 January 2022. A concise summary of the results is provided blow.

Six themes

The literature review looks at six themes: physical health, care needs, mental health, social effects, and other effects plus risk factors and shielding factors. In addition, the factors that may shield young people from negative impacts were studied, as well as the factors that amplify problems. The international studies included in this literature review cover the period up to autumn 2020. The literature review of Dutch studies also included spring 2021.

COVID-19 crisis negatively impacted health and well-being among young people

Studies show that the COVID-19 crisis negatively impacted the physical and mental health of many young people. They exercise less, are eating less healthy, and were more likely to suffer from such symptoms as depression, anxiety and loneliness.
Young people with pre-existing mental or physical problems suffered more negative consequences from the COVID-19 crisis. The crisis aggravated their existing problems. Other factors that may amplify the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis include poverty and problems within families. The impact of the crisis is more significant if young people have several different problems at the same time.

Young people are resilient

The literature review also shows that young people were less likely to go to a care provider for physical or mental problems, although the need for mental healthcare increased.
At the same time, the literature review shows that young people are resilient – or at least they were when the crisis started. During the period under review (which roughly covers the first year of the COVID-19 crisis), many young people reported minimal or no symptoms, or reported that their symptoms subsided once the coronavirus measures were relaxed. Young people also indicated that they experienced less pressure or intense input during lockdowns, and that they felt good about that. It also offered space for family contacts to improve. This literature review does not offer a clear impression of the long-term effects.

In general, prevention requires more attention in order to prevent health problems, and to create and maintain resilience among young people. Vulnerable groups require special attention in this context. 

This information in Dutch