Almost half of people in their early 20s are suffering negative mental health effects during the pandemic, with the problem particularly stark among young women, according to a new study.
Research carried out as part of the longitudinal Growing Up In Ireland (GUI) study found that 48 per cent of 22-year-olds surveyed placed themselves in the "low mood" range last December.
Some 55 per cent of women and 41 per cent of men said this was how they were feeling, which researchers said was a “substantial increase” on pre-pandemic levels of 25 to 30 per cent.
"So many of them have lost a job or at least were temporarily laid off; we also saw that over 80 per cent of them said they were meeting their friends less than usual," said Dr Aisling Murray, senior research officer on the project, said of the cohort.
“We know that fewer of them returned to in-person teaching and mixing with other students compared to the younger cohort.”
The GUI project undertook special online surveys of 22-year-olds as well as 12-year-olds and their parents.
Some 22 per cent of the younger cohort were found to be in the “low mood range” with a gender gap again apparent – 28 per cent of girls compared with 17 per cent of boys.
Despite the low moods among some respondents, there was strong hope for the future with 72 per cent of 22-year-olds expressing optimism and 88 per cent of parents for the younger children.
The study found that while the majority have managed with being educated remotely, more of a divide appears when income levels are factored in.
Among highest income households, 75 per cent had a quiet place to study; 81 per cent had adequate devices and 82 per cent sufficient internet connection. Among the lowest income those percentages dropped to 53, 59 and 64 per cent respectively.
Some of those in the 12-year-old category had returned to primary education and others to secondary. The survey found that at primary level 51 per cent felt safe from infection, falling to 35 per cent at secondary. Only between 4 and 7 per cent found it hard to resettle into the school setting.
There was also notable effects on the social and economic lives of 22-year-olds. The survey found that 46 per cent had lost a job, with just 14 per cent reporting no change to their employment situations.
In the area of health and lifestyles, 60 per cent of 22-year-olds said they were drinking less alcohol during the pandemic with 17 per cent drinking more. Thirty per cent said they were smoking and vaping less with 39 per cent doing so more.
For 22-year-olds, 31 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed that their peers were not taking the disease seriously against 41 per cent who disagreed.