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COVID-19 lockdowns and changes in loneliness among young people in the UK

Kung, Claryn SJ; Kunz, Johannes S; Shields, Michael A; (2023) COVID-19 lockdowns and changes in loneliness among young people in the UK. Social Science & Medicine , 320 , Article 115692. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115692. Green open access

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Abstract

RATIONALE: There has been growing concern that loneliness has increased throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns, and that the burden has fallen heavily on young people. This is important because loneliness is strongly linked to worse health outcomes. OBJECTIVE: We examine whether and how loneliness among young people changed during the pandemic across the different lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021. We also assess differences by gender, socioeconomic status, and economic activity before the COVID-19 outbreak. METHODS: We use nine waves of longitudinal data from the COVID-19 supplement of the UK Household Longitudinal Study (Understanding Society), collected between April 2020 and September 2021. We apply an individual fixed-effects event study design, which compares the loneliness reported by the same individual over lockdown transitions. We focus on loneliness reported by 1870 respondents aged between 16 and 24 years and compare it with pre-pandemic baselines. RESULTS: We find that the loneliness of young people tracked the extent of lockdown restrictions but had returned to baseline levels by September 2021. This loneliness response was more pronounced for females than males but similar for young people across higher and lower socioeconomic backgrounds. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that policy interventions aimed at increasing the opportunities for in-person social interactions for young people in ‘normal’ times, might have some success in tackling loneliness, particularly for young females.

Type: Article
Title: COVID-19 lockdowns and changes in loneliness among young people in the UK
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115692
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115692
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2023 The Authors. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Loneliness, Adolescents, Young adults, COVID-19, Longitudinal analysis, Event study
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10163867
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