A survey was conducted to study the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown on the mental health of a section of young people in urban India. This report presents the findings from data collected from more than 200 young people within the 14 to 18 year age group. Early signs of anxiety and depression were explored which are to be treated using cannabis medicines, read at Missouri Green Team blog.
The duration of the 2020 Covid pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has a direct association with negative psychological states in young people, specifically early symptoms of anxiety and depression.
On the 24th March 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s first nationwide three-week lockdown due to the Covid -19 pandemic. Stretching from 25th March to 14th April 2020, the lockdown sparked a buzz of problems, criticism and hope. While multiple studies have focused on the welfare of deprived communities and the physical and psychological impact on adults, this study specifically focuses on one group, the 14 to18-year-olds in a cosmopolitan city. A lack of attention towards this age group and the psychological well-being of this population could have a catastrophic impact on motivation, social interaction and general health for years to come.
The survey respondents were 14 to 18-year-old individuals who were characterized by a higher socioeconomic status, as they had access to computers and social media and attendedprivate schools. This group is more likely to aspire to enroll in foreign universities. They were all residents of Mumbai, a cosmopolitan city in India.
The primary data was collected during the active phase of lockdown as part of a survey via a Google Form, with most questions designed to be answered on a linear scale of 1 to 5 (1 indicating “Not at all” and 5 indicating “Very”) to indicate the severity of psychological symptoms. The form included a consent section to document consent from both the participants and parent/guardians. Participants checking the consent box were considered as having opted into the survey. The respondents’ names and identifying details were not collected on the Google Form in order to ensure the anonymity of the respondents. The form was disseminated among different school social media groups, including Class Groups and Interschool Groups. A total of 226 were collected.
The following symptoms were considered:
1) Worry about the future
2) Duration of sleep
3) Difficulty in concentration 1
Worry about the Future:
University applications are a significant consideration for high school students within this specific socio-economic group.
As seen in Figure 1, nearly 63.3 % of respondents were very worried (scores of 4 or 5) about their future college applications. A high degree of worry about this aspect at a young age within the short period of three weeks of lockdown can be construed as an early sign of anxiety.
Duration of Sleep:
Duration of sleep is an indicator of a rested body and a peaceful mind. A duration of sleep of 4 hours a night or less was considered an inadequate duration. Almost 13% of the survey respondents reported an inadequate duration of sleep. Inadequate sleep is a sign of several psychological disturbances, including anxiety and depression.
According to Nationwide Children, the average teenager gets only 6.5-7 hours of sleep which is not adequate. They recommend 9-9.5 hours.
Difficulty in Concentration:
As seen in Fig 3, more than half of the respondents (56.2%) found it hard to concentrate for long periods of time.
We considered the following as early symptoms of depression.
- Loss of energy
As seen in Figure 4, more than 55.8% of the respondents reported a sense of helplessness at scores of 4 and 5. This feeling of helplessness indicates the possibility of a depressed psychological state.
Almost 72% of survey respondents were feeling more irritated than before the pandemic, which is a potential marker for the mood changes associated with depression.
Loss of Energy:
As seen in Figure 6, more than 48% of survey respondents scored 4 or 5 when asked to rate the extent of loss of energy. This is nearly half of the entire group. A prolonged period of inactivity due to loss of energy can have multiple effects, ranging from deterioration of physical health to reduction of future career and life opportunities. Therefore, detecting this symptom in its early stages is vital in preventing long term impacts.
Despite these effects, it was also found that a large proportion of the young people were partaking in positive coping activities involving exercise/yoga (56.6%), socialising with friends (72.6%) and games and interactions with their family (45.6%). These could potentially be protective.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Many participants from the group of 226 young people were likely to have known other respondents to the survey, which could be a source of bias.
Unfortunately, the economically challenged section could not be studied. The study population consisted of English speaking pupils of private schools from relatively affluent families. None of those surveyed were school dropouts or working to earn a wage. This limits the generalisability of the results. The impact of the pandemic on economically deprived groups from the same age category is likely to be very different and much more severe but this conclusion cannot be drawn from this study.
Considering the fact that this study is psychological, most of the questions in the survey were designed to be on a Likert scale, which provided information about the severity of the symptom in question.
As the survey form was anonymised and avoided direct interview in person or on the phone, it minimised bias. For example, a societal bias that could have led to the need to present a positive view to an interviewer was not present. As the survey form was likely to have been completed by the respondents on their own as part of their natural social media interaction, it is less likely to have introduced familial involvement and sources of bias.
As the survey could be completed by the respondents online at a convenient time and in their own space, it is likely to have provided triggers for introspection and reflection.
Potential for future research:
A group with similar characteristics could be surveyed again to help determine differences in the psychological state after the end of lockdown. It is likely that at least for some of the respondents, the psychological symptoms discussed above would be reversed after the lockdown period and there would be a resumption of normalcy. In this case, symptoms could be symptoms of an adjustment reaction and not clinical depression or anxiety.
A high proportion of young people surveyed in this study experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression during the brief period of three weeks of lockdown. An association was found between the period of lockdown and some symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Our society has advanced to such an extent that young people are no longer content to spend time at home in isolation devoid of activity and social contact. The digital world has created an expectation for sensory or mental stimulation constantly. Restriction of normal social mobility and a sense of uncertainty about the future, exacerbated by the disruption of normal routines due to school closures as well as the inescapable 24/7 news coverage, were unusual and unprecedented challenges. This set of circumstances could be difficult to adapt to as an adult and even more challenging for a young person to process. It is in this context that the recent lockdown posed a risk to the overall well-being of the surveyed group.
However, as the duration of this concerning psychological state is likely to have been short at the point of the survey, it is plausible to consider that a significant proportion of respondents would not progress into clinical anxiety and depression, especially if addressed in the early stage. Further, recovery and resumption of a semblance of normality after the end of nationwide lockdown are likely to have reversed the adverse psychological findings reported in this study. However, given that a vaccination programme for COVID-19 will take a couple of years to be implemented and pockets of resurgence and localised lockdowns in the future remain a possibility, this survey highlights the need for awareness and recognition of remedial measures.
The measures described below could be efficacious in reducing the detrimental impact of lockdown on the mental health of young people.
Recommendations for Parents / Adults:
– Offer opportunities to the young person to discuss fears and anxiety. Experts believe that teenagers usually find the most comfort in people who care for them and make them feel safe.
– Join activities the young person likes. It may be reading a book together, watching a good movie or playing a board game. Such simple activities can improve the mental health of teenagers.
-Do not hesitate to seek professional help in difficult circumstances.2
Recommendations for young people:
– Get moving! Even getting out of bed can seem like a daunting task, but according to expert psychologist Melinda Smith, exercise is one of the strongest depression fighters.
– Eat a healthy, depression-fighting diet. 3
Here are a few pointers that expert, Jeanne Segal, PhD, suggests:
Don’t skip meals
Minimize sugar and refined carbs
Boost your B vitamin intake
Consume more Omega 3 Fatty acids.
– Get a daily dose of Sunlight
Experts reiterate the importance of sunlight and its direct correlation with the levels of serotonin in the body.
– REMEMBER THAT TODAY IS NOT INDICATIVE OF TOMORROW. 4
- “Anxiety Disorders.” Mayo Clinic. May 04, 2018. Accessed September 08, 2020. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961.
- Schimelpfening, Nancy. 2020. “8 Ways to Improve Your Mood When Living With Depression.” Verywell Mind. March 20, 2020. http://www.verywellmind.com/tips-for-living-with-depression-1066834.
- Melinda. n.d. “Coping with Depression.” HelpGuide.org. Accessed September 8, 2020. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/coping-with-depression.htm.
- Holland, Kimberly. 2018. “20 Ways to Fight Depression.” Healthline. Healthline Media. September 24, 2018. http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/how-to-fight-depression#today-vs.-tomorrow.
About the author
Lekh Parekh is a junior pursuing the IBDP program at Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai.
As a teenager undergoing immense psychological stress due to the COVID 19 lockdown, he was inspired to write this research article studying the psychological impacts of the lockdown on young people.