The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns on social connection, loneliness, and the mental health and wellbeing of young Australians is the focus of an important new Burnet Institute study.
The pandemic has brought unprecedented disruption to the lives of populations across the globe, including in Australia. Interruptions to study and job loss disproportionately affect young people aged 15-29.
Although young people are underrepresented in morbidity and mortality directly related to COVID-19, Dr Megan Lim, Burnet Institute Deputy Head Behaviours and Health Risks, says there are compelling reasons to believe they will bear a large burden of the societal costs of the pandemic and related responses.
Dr Lim said:
“Young people are at high risk anyway of loneliness and the associated negative health outcomes that relate to that.”
“Despite the increase in technologies that allow people to be connected, we know that young people now feel less socially connected and more isolated than they ever have before, and we think that the social distancing measures may be impacting that further.”
Recruitment for the study is now open. Participants will complete online surveys including an initial baseline survey with follow-ups at three, six and 12 months.
Burnet researchers will also conduct interviews and workshops to gather more in-depth data.
Dr Lim said:
“We’re interested in how technology can be used to support young people’s health and well-being, but also in the ways that it can have a negative impact.”
“I think what we’re seeing now is the role of communications technologies in the absence of any real-life human contact and face-to-face contact.
“They’re being used in ways that they weren’t really intended to be used, but at the moment they’re our only option, so we really want to look at how to best optimise them for young people’s health and well-being.”