Harvard Researchers: Nearly Half of Young Adults Showing Signs of Depression Amid Pandemic

November 13, 2020 | By Kerry McDonald | Foundation For Economic Education |

“As the pandemic continues, the severe costs of lockdowns on young adults and others are becoming distressingly clear.

Mounting evidence shows that pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions have inflicted much more harm on younger people than the coronavirus itself. A new report reveals that nearly half of 18 to 24 year-olds are “showing at least moderate depressive symptoms,” and for many the depression is severe.

Researchers at Harvard, Northeastern, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities conducted eight large survey rounds across all US states from April through October, finding that young adults are increasingly having suicidal thoughts. In the US adult population as a whole, the incidence of suicidal ideation typically hovers around 3.4 percent. But this new study reveals that in October, 36.9 percent of young adults had suicidal thoughts, compared to 32.2 percent in May in the wake of the first round of government lockdowns.

These new figures reinforce similarly dismal data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August. The CDC found that one-quarter of young people ages 18-24 contemplated suicide in the previous month, in large part due to the pandemic and lockdowns.

‘In effect, what we’ve been doing is requiring young people to bear the burden of controlling a disease from which they face little to no risk,’ said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.

According to the new study, lockdowns and other pandemic policies have drastically upended the lives of most young adults. Only 20 percent of study participants said that they experienced little change since the pandemic began. Instead, just over half of the participants said that their school or university had closed, while 41 percent had to adapt to working from home, 28 percent experienced a pay cut, and 26 percent were laid off.

“The next [presidential] administration will lead a country where unprecedented numbers of younger individuals are experiencing depression, anxiety, and, for some, thoughts of suicide,” the report’s authors conclude. “These symptoms are not concentrated among any particular subgroup or region in our survey; they are elevated in every group we examined.””


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