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Young people are unhappy, but abide by coronavirus advice

The government’s coronavirus advice reaches young people, but already three weeks into the pandemic they are frustrated with school closures and the lack of socialising.

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Kristin Haraldstad, photo
Young people are well informed and follow government advice about coronavirus, shows a new study conducted by Professor Kristin Haraldstad at the University of Agder together with colleagues from OsloMet.

This is the conclusion of a new study on young people in Norway and their experiences during the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The young people are well informed, they are aware of the health protective measures and follow them, even if it means reduced quality of life for them”, says Kristin Haraldstad, professor at the University of Agder (UiA).

Together with researchers from OsloMet, she conducted a survey of young people from across the country in April. This was just three weeks after the coronavirus pandemic led to widespread lockdowns.

The study is one of the first research projects on young people in the time of coronavirus. The research article was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Poor quality of life

2,200 young people aged 16-19 participated in the survey.

To measure the quality of life of young people, the researchers used a generic questionnaire (Kidscreen). The questions are about physical and mental health. You are asked how you get along with friends and family during your free time and at school. You are also asked directly if you have felt lonely.

The results show that young people during the coronavirus pandemic report a poorer quality of life compared with results usually obtained in studies of this age group.

“They are dissatisfied with the lockdown and feel uncomfortable because they are excluded from school and normal social interaction with other peers”, the professor says.

She underlines that quality of life is the subjective experience of physical and mental wellness.

Conscientious young people

“Bear in mind that this is a snapshot from three weeks after lockdown was introduced. But we were surprised that this age group assessed their quality of life as this bad after such a short time of school closures and restrictions on social interaction”, says Haraldstad.

She is all the more impressed that the young people are conscientious and follow the advice from the authorities.

Knowledge about the coronavirus

The aim of the survey was also to find out what young people know about infection control and coronavirus, and what they have learned from the information provided by the authorities.

“The survey shows that all the young people had good knowledge of the most important health advice from the authorities: Wash your hands often, keep one meter distance away from others, limit the number of friends you associate with and stay at home if you have a cough”, says Haraldstad.

Traditional channels of information most important

Social media is an important source of information for young people, but traditional channels have been an even more important source of knowledge about coronavirus.

“The young people report television and parents as the most important sources of information during the outbreak. When young people are both knowledgeable and willing to follow public health advice, it is probably because the authorities have succeeded in imparting information to the public. They have clearly also managed to reach young people”, says Haraldstad.

Together with colleagues from OsloMet, the UiA professor is now planning a follow-up study.

“We want to see how young people experience the coronavirus situation and their quality of life more than half a year after the first closures and quarantine restrictions”, says Haraldstad.