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One-third of young people report mental health symptoms during national lockdown, study reveals

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Almost one in three young people reported symptoms of poor mental health during the first Covid-19 lockdown, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by Imperial College London, is among the first to explore the long-term impact that coronavirus restrictions have had on 16-to-24-year-olds.

Known as the CCopeY study, the authors found that almost a third (30 per cent) of young people in the UK experienced poor mental health during the first national lockdown.

Compared to 2014 figures (when just 17 per cent of young people in the UK reported symptoms of mental illness), the research suggests that the lockdown has had a “detrimental effect on young people’s mental health”.

The survey of 650 young people also found that the risk of poor mental health increased among people who identify as black, and that one in 10 had self-harmed to cope with the pressures of lockdown. Young people also relied on eating-related coping strategies and were more likely to self-blame, disengage and use substances to cope, it was found.

But the paper also identified positive ways young people were dealing with social distancing restrictions. For example, young people significantly benefitted by establishing a daily routine, practising mindfulness, and improving sleep hygiene.

The full findings of the study have been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Adolescent Health.

Commenting on the report, study author Dr Lindsay Dewa said: “Our study shows that working together with young people with lived experience, as research partners, is possible during lockdown, despite the face-to-face restrictions. It offers important insight into young people’s mental health during the pandemic and how lockdown may have negatively impacted their wellbeing.

“But it has also highlighted the changes young people can benefit from, such as using online peer support, digital support sessions in schools and universities and sharing positive coping strategies.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.