The pandemic made live contact much more important for 16 to 18 year old's

Study in Kortrijk, Belgium, shows schoolkids’ mental health improved between 2020 and 2021

Study in Kortrijk, Belgium, shows schoolkids’ mental health improved between 2020 and 2021

The two-part study also found out that the pandemic made live contacts with friends particularly important for kids between 16 and 18

Today, city authorities in Kortrijk, Belgium, published a study into the mental health of school children of all ages. The report is a follow-up of a similar initiative from November 2020, when city officials decided to assess the impact of Covid-measures on the mental health of kids.

The survey was conducted by the City of Kortrijk in collaboration with all its local schools. A total of 1,362 people took part, including 1,222 students, accounting for 90% of the respondents. 123 teachers also participated.

According to the report’s findings, the pandemic impacted the mental health of those over 12 most severely, with kids between 16 and 18 possibly experiencing long-term effects.

The city commissioned the survey to gather data on the complex topic of mental health with the aim to try and implement a more efficient policy, taking the issue into account. Both reports can help policymakers focus their attention and identify weak points and great ideas.

The freedom to be yourself could have an impact on mental health 

The first study in November was carried out during the first major peak in infections and measures in 2020, while the second one happened in October 2021, during a relatively loose period, where schools in the country had in-person class attendance. This has led to results showing an overall improvement in students’ mental health conditions.

In 2020, 49.1% of respondents said they were feeling less well and 12.4% said they were feeling really not well. For comparison, in 2021, 78% of students said they were feeling better or as good as last year.

One of the big changes is with children over 12 years, with 41% of them saying they felt better than in 2020. With those under 12, the situation is a bit different, as just 28% said they felt better and 48% said that they felt just as good. At the same time, in the recent study, a quarter said they felt less well or really not okay.

Another interesting point is the concept of ‘being yourself’ in school. Researchers found that out of all the students who said they felt better than last year, 43% also said they can be themselves in school. On the other hand, among those who felt less well than last year, only 23% said they can be themselves.

Despite the internet, live contacts are still very important

The situation with 16 to 18-year-olds is a bit different. While their well-being rates are not particularly different from those over 12, they show some considerable shifts in behaviour. According to researchers, despite an overall high usage of social media, there is a pronounced dip in 16 to 18-year-olds activity on the internet and a clear and strong emphasis on live contacts.

Of the people who said they have good contacts with their friends, half said that since the pandemic began, they met more often in real life. A further 36% say they attributed greater importance to live contacts. At the same time, people who found their contacts with friends less satisfying than before also reported increased use of social media.



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