Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Young people’s mental health deteriorated during COVID-19, with higher levels of depression and social, emotional and behavioural difficulties than before the pandemic hit, a comprehensive new study has shown.

Swings taped off to prevent use with yellow 'caution' tape.

Researchers led by Professor Willem Kuyken at Oxford University's Department of Psychiatry compared the mental health difficulties and well-being of thousands of UK secondary school pupils who experienced three lockdowns, with a group of students who participated in the same study before the coronavirus pandemic emerged in 2020.

The findings, part of the MYRIAD (My Resilience in Adolescence) study and published in the journal JAMA Network Open, show:

  • Young people who went through the pandemic were more likely to experience increased depression, social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and worsening general mental well-being.
  • While mental health declined in both groups over time, those in the pandemic experienced a worsening in their mental health:
    - Cases of depression increased 8.5% in those going through the pandemic versus 0.3% in the pre-pandemic group.
    - Cases of high/very high social, emotional and behavioural difficulties increased 7.9% in the pandemic cohort vs 3.5% in the pre-pandemic cohort.
    - Cases of possible/probable mental health difficulties increased 12.8% in the pandemic group versus 4.5% in the pre-pandemic group.
  • Girls and those who were initially at low risk of mental health difficulties experienced greater deteriorations during the pandemic.
  • Having a positive school climate, good relationships at home and having a friend to turn to for support during lockdown were protective factors.
  • Even partial school attendance during lockdown was better for the subsequent adjustment when coming back to school than no attendance at all.

Read the full story on the Department of Psychiatry website.