ONS COVID-19 Briefing: Coronavirus and the Social Impacts

Briefing: 22 June 2020

Released: 22 June 2020

Coronavirus and the social impacts on young people in Great Britain: 3 April to 10 May 2020

Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on young people in Great Britain. For the purposes of this analysis, we have defined young people as aged from 16 to 29 years.

Statistician's comment

“Younger people were generally more optimistic about lockdown, with more than half expecting life to return to normal within 6 months. One of their biggest worries was the impact on schools and universities, being unable to attend them, the quality of their education and uncertainty around exams”.

“While they were more optimistic, young people were much more likely to report being bored and lonely during the lockdown period, and 42% of them reported that it was making their mental health worse”.

This is the latest briefing on the Healthy Suffolk website, but the ONS may have published further updates. You can find historical information on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website. 

Key points

  • Among young people who were worried about the effect COVID-19 was having on their lives, their main concerns were the effects on schools or universities (24%), their wellbeing (22%), work (16%) and household finances (16%).
  • The most reported impacts were a reduction in hours worked (21%), concerns about health and safety at work (18%) and having been asked to work from home (19%).
  • Most young people who reported an impact on schools or universities expressed concerns about the uncertainty over exams and qualifications (58%), the quality of education being affected (46%) and a move to home-schooling (18%).
  • Young people were generally more optimistic than the older age groups about how long they expected the effect of the pandemic to last, and over half of them (55%) reported they expect their lives to return to normal within six months.

Context

 

Impacts of the coronavirus 

  • Those in the youngest age group, ages 16 to 29 years, were least likely to be very worried (17%) compared with those aged 30 to 59 years (27%) or those aged 60 years and over (24%).
  • Young people who were worried about the effect of the coronavirus on their lives, were significantly more likely than those aged 60 years and over to report concerns over the impact on their wellbeing (66% and 51% respectively) and their work (59% and 15% respectively).
  • Young people were also significantly more likely than either those aged 30 to 59 years (26%) or those aged 60 years and over (23%), to report concerns about the impact of the virus on their relationships (35%).
  • Around 40% of adults across all age groups also reported that they were concerned about the impact on their life events.
  • Those aged 16 to 29 years were most worried about the impact on schools and universities (24%), their wellbeing (22%), their work (16%) and their finances (16%).

Coping strategies 

  • Those aged 16 to 29 years were more likely than those aged 60 years and over to report that other household members, learning, TV and film, working and the internet were helping them to cope and less likely to report reading and gardening.

Impacts on work

  • 76% of those aged between 25 and 29 years old who were worried (somewhat or very) about the effect of COVID-19 on their lives reported that the coronavirus has affected their work. This was significantly higher than those aged 30 to 59 years (65%), possibly reflecting their less secure status in the labour market and the types of jobs they are likely to do.
  • Those aged between 20 and 59 years were most likely to report an impact on their work.
  • The most common ways in which it was affected were a reduction in hours worked (21%), concerns about health and safety at work (18%) and having been asked to work from home (19%), though half of young people reported that their work had been affected in some other way.
  • 16 and 29 years were the most likely to report their working arrangement as a zero-hours contract, with 4.8% of employed young people reporting this in the last quarter of 2019 (October to December).
  • More young people reported being unable to work from home.

Impacts on education

  • Uncertainty over exams and qualifications (58%) and concerns over the quality of education being affected (46%) were also common concerns. A sizeable percentage (18%) were also worried about the move to home-schooling.
  • Among those aged 16 to 24 years who were unable to attend their educational establishments because of COVID-19, around 75% felt that their future life plans will be negatively affected.
  • Almost 50% reported that home education was negatively affecting their wellbeing and a similar percentage indicated they were not confident that they could continue their studies effectively from home.

Impacts on household finances

  • Those aged 16 to 29 years were significantly more likely to report an impact on their household finances (30%) than those aged 60 years and over (13%), though at the household level, people are likely to be living with others in different age groups.
  • The majority of those aged 16 to 29 years whose household finances have been affected have experienced a reduction in income (84%). Being unable to save was the next most reported impact (38%). The proportions of 16 to 29-year-olds reporting these impacts were significantly higher than for those aged 60 years and over.

Impacts on wellbeing

  • Young people (aged 16 to 29 years) were much more likely to report feeling lonely some of the time or occasionally than those aged 60 years and over and much less likely to report never feeling lonely.
  • Young people on average were less satisfied with their lives than the oldest age group.
  • Those in the youngest age group were on average significantly less anxious than all other age groups, except those aged 20 to 24.
  • Those aged 16 to 29 years who specifically said they were worried about the impact on their wellbeing were significantly more likely to report being stressed or anxious (72%) than those aged 60 years and over (54%).
  • In the youngest age group, feeling bored was more likely to be reported by the 16 to 19-year-olds (87%) than those aged 25 to 29 years (65%), likely reflecting the proportions of the older group in work or caring for children.

Impacts on community support

  • 60% of young people aged 16 to 29 years agreed that if they needed help, other local community members would support them during the pandemic, this was significantly lower than those aged 60 years and over, 77% of whom expressed this opinion.
  • 16 to 29 years were more likely to report that they did not check on their neighbours at all in the last seven days (47%) than either of the other age groups, and least likely to report that they checked on them three times or more.

Looking forward

  • 55% reported that they think their lives will return to normal within six months, significantly more than either of the other age groups.
  • They were also significantly less likely than the older age groups to report that they expected the impact on their lives to last more than a year (13%).
  • Those aged 16 to 29 years were also significantly more likely to say that they expect the financial position of their household to get better (a lot or a little) in the next 12 months (23%) than those aged 60 years and over (9%).