Young people ‘anxious about social interaction and scared of outside world’

More than half of young people have developed anxiety about social interaction and six in 10 are concerned about maintaining social distancing at school, a survey has found.

Young people are feeling more lonely, isolated, stressed and “digitally worn-out” following the coronavirus lockdown, according to research by YMCA England and Wales.

While nine in 10 missed face-to-face engagement, 52% have anxiety about social interaction and 63% are worried about being able to maintain social distancing when they return to school.

Some 57% are worried about not having a safe space to socialise with friends, 44% feel anxious to be in social spaces and 36% feel scared of the outside world.

They are also worried about falling behind at school, future exam results and their job prospects.

Some 1,009 11-to-16-year-olds in the UK were surveyed by the charity between July 24 and 27.

More than half (57%) said they were worried about their family experiencing job losses or money problems.

And 58% said relationships with family members have become strained during the lockdown.

Overall, 43% are worried about their wellbeing as society gradually recovers from the Covid-19 outbreak.

The YMCA is calling for significant reinvestment in youth services so young people can access safe spaces, mentors, mediation and mental health support.

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales, said that without this, young people risk becoming a “lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn”.

She said: “The introduction of lockdown has accelerated and exacerbated the situation, with young people forced to stay at home, isolate themselves from their peers and be without access to positive activities.

“A generation which was already at a disadvantage have been dealt a further blow by Covid-19 and face deep uncertainty about what is next for them in its wake.

“What is essential to support young people through the easing of lockdown and beyond are safe spaces like youth services.

“They can be utilised to carefully and positively build young people’s confidence, provide much-needed support and guidance, and ultimately help them to get back on track.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Ahead of pupils returning to school and college in September, we have included a strong focus on wellbeing and re-engagement in our guidance and provided thousands of schools and teachers with training and resources.

“We have also announced the Wellbeing for Education Return scheme, backed by £8million, which will provide schools and colleges all over England with the knowledge and access to resources they need to support children and young people, teachers and parents if they have been affected by coronavirus.”