Lecture – Young Adult Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Available with English captions.

Presented by Cindy H. Liu, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital – Visiting Scholar Series

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth many uncertainties and stressors that have had tremendous effects on the mental health of young adults. These issues have been made worse by ever-changing public health policies, events related to racial and social justice, and more.

In this presentation, Dr. Liu examines the mental health rates and experiences reported by young adults in the COVID-19 Adult Resilience Experiences Study (CARES). Through a review of the findings, she discusses the difference of experiences between various subgroups. She also explores other significant risk and protective factors.

Watch now to learn more about:

  • The types of mental health issues affecting college-age individuals before and during the pandemic
  • CARES findings, including an analysis of how the pandemic has impacted those of different ethnicities, races, and sexual orientations
  • Possible positive trends stemming from the pandemic, such as post-traumatic growth and resilience

Drawing on the CARES results, Liu shows how the mental health of college students has changed—and worsened—because of the pandemic. Of CARES survey respondents, 45% reported symptoms of anxiety, 43% reported symptoms of depression, and 32% reported symptoms of PTSD. Also, 3 in 5 said they were experiencing loneliness, and fewer than 30% said they were resilient or could handle distress.

Liu investigates the causes behind these findings. She reports that many survey respondents tied their feelings of stress and anxiety to displacements caused by the pandemic and a lack of social connection.

Others expressed feelings of anger and divisiveness. Their feelings, she states, are connected not just to the pandemic, but also to uncertainty around government, politics, and racial and social justice.

Liu also explored the concept of “silver linings,” or positive trends that may have come out of the pandemic. Although some young adults in the survey claimed to have grown personally during the past few months, the overall numbers were low. Still, the survey did reveal an encouraging rise in participation in social and political causes over the past year.

Ultimately, Liu says, research into young adult mental health during the pandemic underscores the ongoing need to provide adequate support and services to this vulnerable population.