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The Impact of COVID-19 on Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing from a European Perspective: A Co-Produced Qualitative Systematic Review
43 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2022More...
Background The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people’s (YP) mental health has been mixed. Systematic reviews to date have focused predominantly on quantitative studies and lacked involvement from YP with lived experience of Covid-19 and mental health difficulties. Our primary aim was to conduct a qualitative systematic review to examine the perceived impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on YP’s (aged 10-24) mental health and wellbeing across Europe.
Method We searched MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Embase, Web of Science, MEDRXIV, OSF preprints, Google, and voluntary sector websites published from 1st December 2020 to 7th July 2021. European studies were included if they reported qualitative data that could be extracted (non-numerical descriptive data) on YP (aged 10-24) experiences of Covid-19 and related disruptions on mental health and wellbeing. Screening, data extraction and appraisal was conducted independently in duplicate by researchers and YP with lived experience of mental health difficulties (co-researchers). Confidence was assessed using the Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research (CERQual) approach. We co-produced an adapted narrative thematic synthesis with co-researchers. This study is registered with PROSPERO, CRD42021251578.
Findings We included 47 studies in our narrative synthesis, of which 22 were peer-reviewed. Most studies were from the UK (74%; n=35); and generated data during the first Covid-19 wave (March-May 2020; 62%; n=29). Across the 50,731 participants, reported perspectives from YP minoritised by ethnicity and sexual orientation, and from marginalised or vulnerable YP were limited. Five synthesised themes were identified: pandemic information and restrictions; education and learning; social connection; emotional, lifestyle and behavioural changes; and mental health support. Young people’s mental health and wellbeing across Europe was reported to have largely fluctuated during the pandemic. Challenges were similar but coping strategies to manage changes and mental health largely varied across person, study and country. Short-term impacts were predominantly related to the impact of changing restrictions on social connection, day-to-day lifestyles and education set-up. However, YP identified potential issues in these areas going forward, and therefore stressed the importance of ongoing long-term support in education, learning and mental health as barriers to gaining accessible and appropriate support remain post-Covid-19.
Interpretation Our findings map onto the complex picture seen from quantitative systematic reviews regarding the impact of Covid-19 on YP’s mental health. The comparatively little qualitative data found in our review means more qualitative research is urgently needed outside of the UK and/or about the experiences of minoritised groups to ensure all voices are heard and everyone is getting the support they need following the pandemic. Young people’s voices need to be prioritised in decision-making processes on education, self-care strategies, and wellbeing and mental health, to drive impactful, meaningful policy changes when anticipating a future systemic crisis.
Study Registration: This study is registered with PROSPERO, CRD42021251578.
Funding We received funding from the NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre for patient and public involvement cost only. The funder had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the report. The corresponding author (LD) had full access to.
Declaration of Interest: All authors declare no competing interests.
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