The percentage of young people who report having mental health problems has hardly decreased since the last lockdown (in early 2022). However, they are less likely to contact the GP for these problems than during the COVID-19 crisis. GP visits for mental health problems, such as depression, have returned to 2019 levels. This is evidenced by the latest quarterly research update (December 2022) from the GOR Network. Primary care data still shows a higher level of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, but the difference compared to 2019 is less significant than in the last lockdown period.
Well-being among young people has not continued to recover since the last lockdown. In March 2022 – after the lockdown at the end of 2021 – 39% of young people reported having mental health problems. In September 2021, this was 25%. Mental well-being (in terms of mental health problems and increase in suicidal thoughts) among young people seemed to be recovering slightly in summer 2022. Despite that, the percentage of young people experiencing mental health problems increased again after that, rising from 32% in September and 34% in December. The figures on suicide attempts – retroactively reported by participants for the previous 3 months – showed a similar trend: 8% in September 2021, 17% in March 2022 after the lockdown, 13% in September 2022 and 15% in December 2022.
Young people with mental health problems sometimes do not seek help
Primary care data shows that young people in October–December 2022 were just as likely to visit the GP for mental health problems (such as symptoms of depression) as before the COVID-19 pandemic. In all previous research rounds from 2021 until summer 2022, more young people had seen their GP for these symptoms than in 2019. This finding at the end of 2022 is particularly striking, since the percentage of young people with self-reported mental health problems did not decrease. One possible explanation could be that these young people sometimes do not seek help. 20% of young people stated in December 2022 that they needed help with mental health problems. 16% of them did not seek help. 5% did seek help, but were unable to find it.
Stabilisation in mental health symptoms among adults
The percentage of mental health symptoms (21%) and suicidal thoughts (9%) among adults was about the same in December 2022 as it had been in September. The first research round among adults took place in March 2022. In contrast to the youth survey, it is therefore impossible to compare these findings on mental health among adults to research results from before the last lockdown.
Mental health problems no longer affected by personal COVID-related events
In all the previous research rounds, there was a strong association between mental health problems, suicidal thoughts and loneliness in relation to things that people experienced due to COVID-19, such as a hospital admission. People who had experienced such events were almost twice as likely to have mental health problems. That association was no longer present in December 2022. However, there is a small group of people struggling with long-term impacts from the events they experienced due to COVID-19 or the coronavirus measures.