According to a series of reports published by WHO and the partner study Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC), adolescents who are most likely to have suffered from negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are female, older, from less affluent families, faced prolonged school closures or lacked social support. The pandemic had a particular marked effect on the mental health of children and adolescents.
As part of the Luxembourg branch of HBSC at the University of Luxembourg, Dr. Caroline Residori of the Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences has played a leading role in the thematic report on age, gender and class.
Using a measurement scale she co-developed, Dr. Residori (CCY) shows that between 15% and 30% of adolescents experienced negative impacts across various domains of their lives. Negative impacts were mostly related to mental health, physical activity, and school performance. Positive impacts were related to relationships with family and friends.
Age, gender, and class differences
In Luxembourg, young people fared better compared to the mean of the 22 countries under scrutiny: the share of young people in Luxembourg who experienced positive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was higher than in half of all other 22 countries. However, the age, gender, and class report shows that girls reported negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in most areas of their lives more often than boys. Adolescents aged 15 less often than adolescents aged 11 to 13 years reported positive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in most areas of their lives as did adolescents from low affluent families compared to their peers. They also less often reported positive impacts.
Impact of school closures
On the international level, almost half of the adolescents reported experiencing some or a lot of school pressure, with those having more school closure days being more likely to report this.
“Fortunately for our local adolescents, Luxembourg only had 49 and thus relatively few days of full school closure in comparison to the mean of 138 days for all 22 countries” says Joana Lopes Ferreira from the Centre for Childhood and Youth Research (CCY) who is one of the co-authors of the report “Navigating uncharted territory”.
Importance of social support
The report “A network of care” shows the importance of social support for adolescents: On the international level, family support was most associated with the perceived impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by support from teachers, classmates, and the least from friends.
In Luxembourg (as in 13 other countries), adolescents with positive perceived impact had a higher prevalence of high social support in all four social support areas: friends, family, classmates, and teachers. In comparison to the mean of the 22 countries, the differences in the perceived impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for adolescents in Luxembourg reporting high vs. low levels of social support from their family are more pronounced.
Mental health and well-being
On the international level, the report “Coping through crisis” demonstrated that girls reported higher levels of negative impacts on their mental health and well-being than boys, as did 15-year-olds compared to 11-year-olds.
In comparison to the mean of the 22 countries, in Luxembourg adolescents reported positive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health and well-being a little more often.
The gender differences in Luxembourg are however some of the highest gender differences seen across the 22 countries. Girls who reported negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their relationships with their family and their peers more often reported high levels of psychological and physical health complaints than boys, and than the mean for girls in the 22 countries. Boys in Luxembourg reported levels similar to the mean of all 22 countries.
“It is very exciting to see our results reach such a wide audience! We are confident that our insights and recommendations will help policymakers target measures to mitigate long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for the most affected adolescents and to prevent negative impacts in future pandemics”, concludes Dr. Caroline Residori.
The Luxembourg branch of Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) is hosted at the University of Luxembourg under the co-principal investigation of Dr. Carolina Catunda. More information on HBSC Luxembourg as well as interactive data visualisations can be found on hbsc.uni.lu.