We know that mental health problems often first appear during adolescence. As lockdown measures tighten around the world, adolescents and their parents are increasingly feeling the strain of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. With physical distancing and uncertainty about the future becoming the new norm, more adolescents are reporting high levels of anxiety and worry that place their mental health at risk.
Professor Elaine Fox, Professor of Psychology & Affective Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said, “Understanding how social isolation and the pandemic is affecting young people’s mental health is crucial. This study will help us to better understand how to safeguard mental health and how to promote resilience in young people and their parents or carers, should similar situations arise in the future.”
The research study, called the Oxford ARC (Oxford Achieving Resilience during COVID-19) aims to evaluate the factors that both hinder and promote resilience during the pandemic.
The study will assess common mental health problems relating to worry, anxiety, depression, eating-related problems and mental inflexibility as well as examining how various activities such as social media use, video conferencing and exercise affects young people’s mental health. Identifying these risk and resilience factors will help to provide more targeted approaches to vulnerable adolescents to support their psychological wellbeing throughout this difficult period.
The Oxford ARC study is international and 13-18-year olds and their parents or carers are being asked to take part. Participants will complete weekly (then monthly) surveys and an optional computer task.
Dr Amy Orben, Research Fellow, MRC Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, added, ““Tracking how young people feel during this unprecedented time will provide a rich data source to support urgent work aimed at mitigating the crisis’ impact on mental health; it will also enable longer-term research that can provide new perspectives on resilience, coping and community.”
Elina Thomas Jones from the TRIUMPH Network’s Youth Advisory Group, says, “From my perspective, everything that made me anxious before lockdown has been taken away, however I've also lost the socialisation which kept me happy. The uncertainty of the future and the sudden changes lead to confusion and rising levels of anxiety and other mental ill health. Additionally, with counselling and other support networks being online only, it feels as if it's not really there at all which makes this period much harder than it is already.”
For further details on the study and how to take part, please visit: https://oxfordarcstudy.com/.
Follow the study team on TWITTER at @oceanoxford.