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UK youths struggle with social anxiety

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-02-24 09:20
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A person wearing a mask walks, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain, Feb 20, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth in the United Kingdom has been highlighted with new research showing that happiness and confidence among 16- to 25-year-olds has plummeted.

After two years of social restrictions due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, 35 percent of people questioned in this age range said they have "never felt more alone", according to a study by the Prince's Trust.

The survey conducted by the charity, founded by Prince Charles, said 40 percent of young people now report being "anxious about socializing with people" and one-third say they "don't know how to make new friends".

The Prince's Trust NatWest Youth Index, based on polling this month by YouGov, shows young people's overall happiness and confidence has hit its lowest point in the 13-year history of the study.

It found that almost a quarter of young people in this age group, or 23 percent, believe that they will "never recover from the emotional impact of the pandemic".

Claire Carroll, who works in Birmingham for the Prince's Trust, told The Guardian that youth workers, such as herself, are in a battle to persuade young people to socialize in real life, rather than online.

She said: "Young people aren't getting the same level of new experiences and that's stopping them becoming independent.

"There's not the same level of socialization you get if you go to college or have a job. I think a lot of people have fallen through the gaps."

Another youth worker in London quoted by the paper said he frequently sees evidence of social anxiety. "There seems to be a real thirst for people to be together," he said. "There are great hugs and shrieks when they get together, but then everyone goes on their phone."

The youth workers cited the rapid growth in use of social media as a contributing factor to the issue, as well as the pandemic separating peer groups, schools reducing support services and 12 years of austerity.

The Guardian also noted a separate study by the Office for National Statistics this month that showed 16- to 29-year-olds feel more anxious than the wider population.

"This alarming downward spiral of anxiety, stress and lack of confidence for the future will impact young people today and in future generations, while widening the gap for the most disadvantaged," said Jonathan Townsend, the UK chief executive of the Prince's Trust, in a news release.

"With the right support from businesses, government and charities we can turn this around and ensure young people have the right skills and confidence to feel positive about their future work, and about their life overall."

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