depression risks in young adults during covid

Studying the effects of the pandemic on various age groups is revealing a startling picture of how the COVID-19 crisis is negatively impacting young adults in particular. So much of the focus has centered on the health risks for older Americans with underlying health conditions who are vulnerable to the virus. It hadn’t really been considered until recently how deeply this pandemic was affecting young adults.

Think about it. Young adulthood, which includes men and women between the ages of 18-30, is the time when young people are just getting started in their lives. But now with the pandemic, they may be college students who have had their classes moved online. They may be a newly married couple just starting out having to shelve their plans to buy a home. Or maybe a young adult who had finally landed the plum job in 2019, only to be furloughed or laid off in 2020. It is easy to understand why this age cohort has been dealing with rising debilitating depression rates.

The depression risks in young adults during COVID-19 are substantial. These young people have basically had their dreams cancelled while in the prime of life. Because of their youth they may not have the life experience to maintain a healthy perspective that this too shall pass, and instead become despondent and hopeless thinking the COVID-19 event will never end.

How the Pandemic has led to Higher Depression Rates in Young Adults

Since childhood, young adults had been groomed to look forward to a promising future. They were encouraged to complete a college education and to pursue career paths that would hopefully prove successful. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned all of that on its head, at least for the time being. For college-aged young adults, the internships or part-time summer jobs were likely cancelled, as were study-abroad programs and most forms of travel. In fact, a survey taken among college students by the non-profit Active Minds showed that 80% of those questioned said COVID-19 had negatively impacted their mental health, and of those 20% reported their mental health had significantly worsened during the pandemic.

As a result of academic or career goals being stalled, some depression risks in young adults have arisen during COVID. Some may be struggling with social isolation due to distancing guidelines, which only enhances the symptoms of depression. Young adults place a high value on socializing and indeed thrive on social interactions, so when deprived of this core aspect of their lives it can lead to depression.

Young families have also been met with real mental health challenges. Unemployment has crippled many young adults, and spotty financial relief packages have not been dependable. For a young parent with children to support, this inability to earn an income can cause feelings of guilt, shame, or despair.

Depression Risks in Young Adults

When discussing depression in young adults you cannot avoid acknowledging the very real risk of them turning to drugs or alcohol as an escape from uncomfortable emotions. Young people are not accustomed to worrying about job security or money issues, so this is a stark wake-up call for them. If they have lost their job or were placed on a long-term furlough, feelings of boredom or stress over financial concerns can take a toll.

In addition to self-medicating through substances, the risk for suicide is also increased among young adults. The American College Health Association surveyed 18,700 students about their mental health. Forty-one percent of the students reported feeling depressed compared with 36% in 2019. In addition, the suicide risk increased by 10%, from 25% to 27.5%. Young adults see their lives and plans disrupted significantly, and with such an unpredictable pandemic they begin to feel hopeless, thinking that this will never end.

Highest Level of Young Adults Living with Parents Since the Depression Era

To add salt to the wound, young adults have had to return to the family home due to college closures or loss of employment. Just this week, CNN reported that 52% of young adults are now living with their parents, which is the highest level since 1940. For young people just starting out in life, it is a significant blow to their self-esteem to have to return to the family home. But the harsh effect of coronavirus on the economy has led to unprecedented job losses that did not spare the young demographic. Living back at home with the parents can be distressing to young adults seeking to become independent and autonomous at this time of life.

The Pew survey showed that there was virtually no difference between these young adults in terms of ethnicity or gender, but that young people of all racial backgrounds, both males and females, rural or urban had been forced to return to their parent’s home. There were, however, a higher number of 18-24 year olds, or Gen Z, as well as the youngest millennials, who have had to move back home with their parents as a consequence of the pandemic.

How Young Adults can Reduce Risk of Depression During the Pandemic

To help minimize the negative impact on mental health, young people can incorporate some healthy lifestyle habits into their daily routine. These actions can help them better weather the pandemic by keeping their physical and mental health in the best shape possible. Consider these positive changes:

  • Keep a regular schedule. Don’t fall into the bad habit of staying up late and sleeping in late. Get up at the same time each morning to maintain as normal a body rhythm as possible.
  • Improve sleep quality. Set a routine sleep schedule so you can regulate the circadian rhythm, in addition to also reducing screen time at night for better sleep.
  • Stay physically active. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining mental health.
  • Remain socially connected. It is possible to stay connected during the pandemic through Zoom gatherings, or outdoor hikes, bike rides, or beach outings that are socially distanced.
  • Find ways to be productive. Even if you are currently unemployed, find ways to remain productive and positive on a daily basis.

Most importantly, if you are feeling yourself sinking into depression, seek out the professional help and support that will guide you back to wellness such as private mental health facilities. Most mental health providers are seeing clients in person, but if that is not the case in your region, access tele-health services for online therapy sessions.

Elevation Behavioral Health Treats Young Adult Depression

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential mental health center set in a private home environment. This intimate setting allows individuals struggling with depression to receive a higher level of personal attention and care. Our compassionate team understands the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and can help guide the individual back to healthy functioning. If you have questions about the depression risks in young adults during COVID, please contact us today at (888) 561-0868.

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