The anxiety levels of young teenagers have dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study has suggested
Thirteen to fourteen-year-olds were less anxious during the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown than they had been in October of last year, according to a survey from the University of Bristol.
Researchers have surveyed 1,000 secondary school children in south-west England.
They said that the results were a “big surprise” to them, and it raised questions about the impact that the school environment can have on teenagers’ mental health.
This comes after the UK government has said that they are not considering making the wearing of face masks compulsory in offices and workplaces.
The findings come after Prof Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical adviser, said children were more likely to be harmed by not returning to education than if they were to catch the coronavirus.
The UK’s four chief medical officers have sought to allay parents’ concerns ahead of schools reopening in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the coming days. Schools in Scotland have already returned.
In a joint statement, the nations’ four chief medical officers said evidence suggested schools were “probably not a common route of transmission”.
And in a bid to encourage parents to send children back to school, Boris Johnson has said it is “vitally important” pupils return to the classroom, with the life chances of a generation at stake.
Researchers compared findings from a survey taken in October last year to answers given by teenagers in May this year. Both girls and boys recorded decreased levels of anxiety during that timeframe.
In October, 54% of 13 to 14-year-old girls and 26% of boys of the same age said they felt anxious.
When surveyed in May – several weeks after schools shut to most pupils and nationwide lockdown restrictions came into force – the proportion dropped to 45% of girls and 18% of boys.
Researchers questioned 1,000 year nine students from 17 secondary schools across the south west of England.
“With the whole world in the grip of a devastating pandemic, which has thrown everyone’s lives into turmoil, the natural expectation would be to see an increase in anxiety,” said the study’s lead author Emily Widnall.
“While we saw anxiety levels rise for a few of our participants, it was a big surprise to discover quite the opposite was the case for many of them.”
Miss Widnall said that students who felt the least connected to school before the nation-wide lockdown saw a larger decrease in their anxiety, raising questions about how the school environment affects the mental well-being of some younger teenagers.
This comes after Ofqual’s exam results algorithm was unlawful, Charlie Falconer, the shadow attorney general has said, as Gavin Williamson finally gave his backing to the beleaguered regulator.
From the University of Bristol, Dr Judi Kidger, said: “Our findings raise questions about the role of the school environment in explaining rises in mental health difficulties among teenagers in recent years.”
“As schools reopen, we need to consider ways in which schools can be more supportive of mental health for all students.”