Twee jongvolwassen vrouwen in close-up

Lockdowns have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of many young people. They get less exercise and experience more feelings of depression, loneliness and insecurity. Vulnerable young people are particularly affected by this impact. However, symptoms do seem to diminish quickly in most young people after measures are relaxed. These findings are from a literature review conducted by RIVM and the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (Nivel).

Researchers reviewed studies on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for young people in the first year of the pandemic, comparing 145 studies from about 60 countries. 

Less exercise, more negative emotions

The literature review showed that young people got more exercise and gained weight during this period, on average. They are more stressed/tense and have more symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness and insecurity. They also perceive more pressure in their home situation. This is particularly applicable to vulnerable groups. Lockdowns have also had positive effects. For example, they resulted in more free time, less external input, fewer obligations, less school-related stress and more independence.

Research programme on impact of prolonged crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a crisis that is lasting a long time. Extensive research has already been done on the impact of short-term crises (such as a major accident or natural disaster). Little is known about the impact of slow-moving, long-term crises and how they affect physical and mental health. The GOR Network (comprised of RIVM, GGD GHOR Nederland, Nivel and ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre) is gathering more knowledge about this topic through a five-year research programme. This will allow policy-makers to take effective measures in response to the current crisis and similar situations in the future. 

The literature review is part of the Integral Health Monitor for COVID-19, which was commissioned by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). The aim is to monitor the health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken.