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The pandemic was difficult for many. Even those who did not become seriously ill could feel unwell from anxiety and isolation. But parts of society shutting down was detrimental to far from everyone's mental health and wellbeing, according to a study from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford in the UK.
"The general perception that the pandemic had an overwhelming negative impact on children and young people is not entirely correct. In fact, it seems that a significant number of children and young people felt better during the first national shutdown of society [in the UK] in 2020", says Emma Soneson, a researcher at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
The researchers analyzed the results from the OxWell Student Survey, where 17,000 English young people aged 8-18 were asked to answer how they experienced their life during the beginning of the pandemic. It turned out that a third of the students thought that their mental health had improved during the pandemic. One-third said they did not notice any difference at all and one-third said they felt worse.
One reason why so many felt better during the pandemic seems to be that they have not been bullied. 92 percent of those who reported feeling better also said that they were less bullied during the period. However, bullying seems to be a big problem, because even 81 percent of those who felt worse during the pandemic said that bullying has decreased.
Another reason why some people feel better is that they lived healthier lives during the pandemic, especially when it comes to getting enough sleep. Of those who had improved mental health, 49 percent said they slept more during the period. The same figure for those who felt worse was 19 percent.
Good contact with family and friends also seems to have played a big role. 53 percent of those who felt better said they got along well with their family during the pandemic. For those who felt worse, only 21 percent thought they got along well with their family members during the shutdown.
"It is undoubtedly the case that the pandemic has had negative consequences for many, but it is important to note that it does not apply to all children and young people. We are interested to see what we can learn from the group that felt better and decide if it would be positive for young people's mental health if we kept some of the changes that the pandemic brought with it", says Mina Fazel, professor at the University of Oxford and a another of the researchers behind the study.