The study, released Tuesday, found that the number of people with anxiety jumped from 13% to 24% in young people between the ages of 27 and 29, and that number was higher than their parents.
Even when lockdown restrictions began to ease in June, the researchers found, anxiety levels remained high and they said they expect that to continue this winter.
The researchers used information from Bristol’s Children of the 90s health study in which 14,500 pregnant women were recruited in 1991 and 1992 in order to collect nearly three decades of health and lifestyle data about the mothers and their babies, who are now nearing 30.
While many of the participants observed were from the southwest part of England, the findings were also observed in an additional group of 4,000 Scottish individuals, which the researchers say implies that these effects are not specific to those from the study.
“The highly detailed Children of the 90s questionnaire data reveals a worrying rise in young people’s anxiety — this looks like it is due to the pandemic itself and potentially the societal and economic fallout caused by the lockdown measures used to control the spread of the virus,” co-lead researcher Dr. Alex Kwong from the University of Bristol said. “Evidence suggests this is not going to be a short-term issue and that mental health support and interventions are urgently required to reduce some of the mental health inequalities that have emerged.”
The study used previous years of data with findings from two Covid-19 questionnaires from this year to understand the impact of the pandemic on mental health.
The researchers found that women, those with pre-existing health conditions, those living alone during the pandemic, those who were self-isolating and those with recent financial problems were at risk of poorer mental health.
“The findings suggest that there is a need to protect mental health at this time (especially managing anxiety) and support mental health services,” co-lead researcher Dr. Rebecca Pearson said. “It is especially important to learn lessons from the first lockdown now that we are in a second lockdown. The findings also provide evidence for supporting specific groups at greater mental health risk, such as those living alone.”
The studies echo what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August, with the number of Americans who reported anxiety symptoms tripling compared to the same time last year.