Young people without access to computers have poorer mental health during the pandemic

Young people without access to computers have poorer mental health during the pandemic

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Teenagers (young people aged 10 to 24) are especially vulnerable to develop a mental health disorder. Basically, this is because our brains are not fully developed until late adolescence. These mental illnesses that begin in adolescence can then continue into adulthood.

COVID pandemic added worrying trend in the mental health of children and adolescents. In 2021, the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists warned that number of persons under the age of 18 were mentioned mental health services during the pandemic.

Teenagers have a greater need for social interaction than adults, so one hypothesis is that “social deprivation due to physical distancing may explain this increase in mental health problems among young people. But most teens weren’t completely cut off from their friends at the height of the pandemic. In 2020, half of 10-year-olds and 95% of 13-year-olds in the UK have their own cell phone. As a result, digital technologies may have averted even worse mental health trends.

My research colleagues and I are particularly interested in how computer access may be related to mental health among adolescents during the pandemic. in us recent researchWe found that young people without access to computers faced poorer mental health in the early stages of the COVID pandemic.

We used data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, also known as Understanding Society. Understanding Society has been tracking members of nearly 40,000 UK households since 2009. During the pandemic, until September 2021, they also sent out questionnaires to young people. from 10 to 15 years old every 1 to 2 months.

In the survey of young people, mental health was assessed using something called Strength and Difficulty Questionnaire. This questionnaire includes 25 statements that young people rated as “not true”, “somewhat true” or “definitely true” about themselves. Among other things, this allows us to calculate a “total hardship” score, which represents the level of mental health difficulty respondents are experiencing.

But we cannot simply compare the average total difficulty scores of teenagers with and without a calculator. For example, consider that young people with computer access are likely to come from wealthier households. A tough economy is associated with poorer mental health, so the group that didn’t have access to computers was likely to have poorer mental health and therefore score higher. But this does not suggest that computer access itself is linked to mental health.

To avoid this, we focused instead on how youth’s total hardship scores have changed over the pandemic (as of March 2021). Using this longitudinal approach, we were able to build models that separate the influence of factors such as income and ethnicity on mental health. Therefore, we can say with more confidence that the differences we see are related to computer access and not other factors.

Based on data from 1,387 adolescents aged 10 to 15 years, we found that adolescents who did not have access to computers had significantly worse mental health than those who did. According to our adjusted model, the average total difficulty score peaked at 11.2 (out of 40) for those with computer access, but 17.8 for those without.

To put those numbers into context, a score of 18 or higher is considered unusually high, meaning respondents may have a mental health condition. In our model, nearly a quarter (24%) of the group without computer access exceeded a score of 18 at some point during the pandemic, compared with one in seven (14%) of those with access. computer access.

Guaranteed digital access

It makes sense that teens without access to computers appear to be at higher risk of mental health problems during a pandemic. A computer can help young people maintain some kind of habit. They can use it to access online school and socialize through video games and social media.

When a big event like pandemic making it difficult for young people to keep up with their usual social networks, digital access can protect them from isolation. However, we must also take steps to ensure that these young people do not become vulnerable. online harm in process.

In our paper, we urge policymakers, health services and researchers to pay more attention to the risks posed by lack of digital access. Future world events, not just pandemics, could once again cause widespread social disruption for young people. By making sure as many people as possible have a means of digital connectivity, we can protect some of these youth are from mental health problems.

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