‘Paralyzing’: how pandemic effects linger on for Britain’s young people | Young people


Young people have been “catastrophically” affected by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to two pieces of research which show that happiness and self-confidence have fallen to an all-time low.

Both studies describe the broad ways in which young people continue to suffer. The hardships include poorer mental and physical health, as well as extensive learning loss, which experts say will undoubtedly affect their future.

“While many people see the pandemic as over, the aftermath is far from over for our country’s young people, particularly those from less affluent households,” said Sir Peter Lampl, the founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, who co- led one of the research projects with University College London involving 13,000 respondents.

“It is very clear that the pandemic continues to deeply affect the lives of young people,” he added.

The findings echo concerns expressed in the second part of the Guardian’s The Covid Generation series, published on Sunday, in which young people analyze how the pandemic continues to affect their lives and their plans for the future 18 months on from the end of the third national lockdown.

Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, who spoke to 2,025 young people aged 16 to 25, said: “The pandemic continues to have a crippling impact on young people’s plans, confidence and hopes for a positive future.

“The significant disruption to their education during this period has left these young people concerned about their skills and qualifications, and lacking confidence in their ability to secure employment or achieve their future career goals.”

His research found that almost half of the young people surveyed felt hopeless about the future. It was the lowest outcome in the 14 years the trust has run its NatWest Youth Index, including when it was launched during the global financial crisis.

Half of the young people surveyed said they were worried they had been left with permanent knowledge and skills gaps that would prevent them from finding work in the future.

The trust’s research echoes data from the Covid Social Mobility and Opportunities (Cosmo) study by the Sutton Trust and UCL.

The Cosmo study found that almost half of young people said they had not learned what they had missed during the pandemic, ranging from 43% of those who had not had Covid to 59% who had had Covid for a long time.

Almost one in five young people, including those not infected, said their GCSE grades were worse than they had expected, rising to one third of those who had had Covid for a long time.

The pandemic has stripped young people of their motivation to study, the research found, with half of those who didn’t have Covid saying they felt less motivated, rising to 57% of those with long Covid.

Concerns for the future were acute, with 40% of those surveyed saying the pandemic had left them unprepared to take their next steps in education and training. This figure was higher for those who had a severe long Covid, with half saying they felt unprepared.

As a result of the learning and self-confidence they lost due to the pandemic, two-thirds of those surveyed in the Cosmo survey said they had changed their education and career plans for the future.

This finding was echoed by the Prince’s Trust research, which found that more than a quarter of respondents from poorer backgrounds plan to finish their education early so they can start earning, compared to 15% of young people overall.

Olly Parker, the head of external affairs at the charity YoungMinds, said the research was a “shocking yet sadly familiar snapshot of how the pandemic has fundamentally changed the lives of so many young people and challenged their hope and confidence in the future”.

Ndidi Okezie, the chief executive of the UK Youth charity, agreed. “Today’s young people face a series of tremendous challenges that cannot be underestimated,” she said. “The lingering effects of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis have a major impact on young people’s education, mental well-being, their financial security and indeed their confidence in the future.”