Arab Times

Pan­demic takes toll on men­tal health

Stress, anx­i­ety high in young adults: poll

- Health · Anxiety · Mental Health · Society · Lifestyle · Depression · Infectious Diseases · College · Health Conditions · Higher Education · Phoenix · University of Chicago · Honolulu · California · North Carolina · North Carolina State University · Arizona · Northern Arizona University · University of Arizona · Zoom Video Communications · National Opinion Research Center

PHOENIX, Sept 12, (AP): The coron­avirus pan­demic has taken a harsh toll on the men­tal health of young Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to a new poll that finds adults un­der 35 es­pe­cially likely to re­port neg­a­tive feel­ings or ex­pe­ri­ence phys­i­cal or emo­tional symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with stress and anx­i­ety.

A ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans ages 18 through 34 - 56% - say they have at least some­times felt iso­lated in the past month, com­pared with about 4 in 10 older Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est COVID Re­sponse Track­ing Study con­ducted by NORC at the Univer­sity of Chicago. Twen­ty­five per­cent of young adults rate their men­tal health as fair or poor, com­pared with 13% of older adults, while 56% of older adults say their men­tal health is ex­cel­lent or very good, com­pared with just 39% of young adults.

In the midst of the pan­demic, young adults are nav­i­gat­ing life tran­si­tions such as start­ing col­lege and find­ing jobs, all with­out be­ing able to ex­pe­ri­ence nor­mal so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties that might be es­pe­cially es­sen­tial for peo­ple who are less likely to have al­ready mar­ried and started their own fam­i­lies. Some young peo­ple are just be­gin­ning their adult lives amid a re­ces­sion, and older mem­bers of the group are al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their sec­ond.

Christina Torres, 32, a mid­dle school teacher in Honolulu, had to post­pone her June wed­ding and was not able to travel to her grand­mother’s funeral in Cal­i­for­nia be­cause of the pan­demic. She misses be­ing able to deal with stress by go­ing to the gym and get­ting to­gether with friends. “And so it’s hard to not feel re­ally hope­less some­times, es­pe­cially be­cause the num­bers keep go­ing up,” she said.

The study found that younger Amer­i­cans also con­sis­tently show higher rates of psy­cho­so­matic symp­toms, like hav­ing trou­ble sleep­ing, get­ting headaches or cry­ing, com­pared to other age groups. The like­li­hood of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing such symp­toms de­creases with age.

One pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for the age gap could be that young adults have less ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing with a pub­lic health cri­sis, said Tom Smith, who has di­rected NORC’s Gen­eral So­cial Sur­vey since 1980. Smith, 71, says he grew up be­ing told not to play in the dirt be­cause of the risk of con­tract­ing po­lio.

Ex­pe­ri­ence

“This ex­pe­ri­ence fac­ing a pan­demic is com­pletely new for most younger adults,” he said.

Torres thought some of the hard­ship her gen­er­a­tion is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing now could be at­trib­uted to their lack of his­tor­i­cal con­text, com­pared with her par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion.

“So it kind of feels like, oh my God, can this get any worse? When is it go­ing to get bet­ter?” she said. “It doesn’t feel like it’s go­ing to get bet­ter.”

Young adults also face con­stant ex­po­sure to so­cial me­dia, which could make neg­a­tive feel­ings about the virus even worse. The sur­vey found that fre­quently watch­ing, read­ing or talk­ing about the virus is con­sis­tently linked with higher rates of neg­a­tive men­tal health symp­toms.

Wayne Evans, 18, a fresh­man at North Car­olina State Univer­sity study­ing re­motely af­ter be­ing sent home be­cause of virus cases at the school, said so­cial me­dia pro­vided daily re­minders of COVID-19.

“In some ways so­cial me­dia has added to my stres­sors, yes. Just the in­for­ma­tion over­load that’s un­avoid­able on so­cial me­dia plat­forms can be dis­tract­ing,” he said.

The sur­vey found 67% of young adults, but just 50% of those older, say they have at least some­times felt that they were un­able to con­trol the im­por­tant things in life. And 55% of 18 to 34 year olds say they have felt dif­fi­cul­ties pil­ing up too high to over­come, com­pared with 33% of older adults.

In Ari­zona, De­siree Eskridge, 17, de­cided to study re­motely in Cal­i­for­nia for her first year at North­ern Ari­zona Univer­sity partly be­cause she did not want to risk spread­ing COVID-19 to her fam­ily, which is prone to sick­ness. She also wor­ried she would get sick and have to pay back a stu­dent loan for a semester she could not fin­ish on the cam­pus.

She did move into her grand­par­ents’ house so she could still be more on her own. She re­lies on friends who are liv­ing on cam­pus and tak­ing the same classes to ex­plain things she did not quite un­der­stand dur­ing lec­tures and has to sched­ule ex­tra Zoom ap­point­ments with her pro­fes­sors for ad­di­tional help.

“It’s ex­tremely stress­ful, but me be­ing home makes it a lit­tle eas­ier be­cause I can do it all in my own time and my own space and I don’t have to be in this new en­vi­ron­ment where I have to learn ev­ery­thing all over,” she said.

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