New study reveals psychological impact of lockdown on Irish teens

New research has revealed the ongoing psychological impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on Ireland’s teenagers. 

40% of respondents to an ongoing study into the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Ireland’s teenagers have suggested they are struggling with the impacts of lockdown and often feel lonely or alone.

This is one of the stark preliminary findings by a team of psychologists from NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin who are carrying out the first in-depth study of the psychological impacts of pandemic lockdowns on Irish teenagers aged 12-18.

The preliminary findings, which have been shared exclusively with the Irish Examiner, go on to show that 75% of those who have responded so far have found the reduction in interactions with friends very difficult.

The preliminary findings also cite feelings of fear and anxiety as a growing concern for many teenagers.

Eight out of 10 students expressed fears that their family and friends would become infected by Covid-19 with many others expressing particular concerns for their grandparents.

Commenting on the findings Dr Caroline Heary, from the School of Psychology at NUI, Galway, said understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health and well-being of teenagers is critically important.

“These prolonged periods of social distancing are occurring during a critical stage of life for our teenagers.

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“Social interactions are of paramount importance for our young people. The social environment is critical for brain development, the development of self and general wellbeing.”

Dr Lorraine Swords from the School of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin warned that while some young people may appear relatively unscathed by the restrictions others have been strongly impacted by isolation, bereavement and feelings of anxiety.

“The preliminary results so far highlight the importance of monitoring the wellbeing of young people over the long term so that the impact of the pandemic and the ongoing social distancing measures can be examined. It is important that we take the needs of young people into account as we plan for our future.”

On a more positive note, Dr Heary pointed out that despite the challenges of lockdown some young people had welcomed the change in the pace of life and the fact that they were spending more time with their family.

“Contrary to the stereotypes of adolescents, our preliminary data depicts young people as committed and engaged individuals who are making sacrifices for their families and communities. Many of our young people are seeking out opportunities for growth and development,” she said.

The NUI Galway and Trinity College researchers are looking for teenage participants and have encouraged those with parental consent to find out more at https://www.adaptresearchstudy.com/ or via email at caroline.heary@nuigalway.ie.

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