Young people disproportionately impacted by pandemic: New report

THE COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people, aged 18 to 29, in ways that could have long-term impacts for young adults and the B.C. community as a whole, according to a new report.

The report, released by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), summarizes how the pandemic has disrupted the lives of 18-year-olds to 29-year-olds across Canada, and outlines actions to help young adults recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the key findings of the report are that young adults experienced the highest unemployment rates of any age group with rates tripling during the first pandemic wave. They also experienced widespread disruptions to post-secondary education during the 2020-2021 school year which could have long-term impacts on career trajectories and employment.

“Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults in British Columbia” provides data to support 32 recommended areas of action that can rapidly improve young peoples’ social, economic, and health outcomes as they emerge from the pandemic. It was commissioned by Dr. Réka Gustafson, Vice President, Public Health and Wellness, Provincial Health Services Authority, and Deputy Provincial Health Officer, and informed by young adults across B.C. and Canada.

“We are at a point in our COVID-19 recovery where we have the opportunity to counteract the disproportionate challenges and disparities faced by young adults during the pandemic,” said Gustafson. “We now have the research that shows that additional short and long-term support can help young adults as they re-establish their social connections, finances, careers, and secure their futures.”

Project lead and co-author Hasina Samji, senior scientist at the BCCDC, says the report provides evidence that additional short-term support will help alleviate the pressures on students, early career professionals, and young families, but more research is needed.

“Ensuring there is a comprehensive monitoring system put in place will help to identify and address the long-term impacts of the pandemic on this young population, most importantly for those who were already disproportionately impacted before the pandemic,” said Samji, who is also an Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University. “More research is needed to fully understand and take action on reducing inequities for racialized, Indigenous, and young people with disabilities that have been exacerbated during the pandemic.”

The report clearly outlines the far-reaching, negative impacts of the pandemic. One focus group participant detailed the significant financial repercussions related to the pandemic:

“[I] lost my new job that would have provided medical and travel benefits. My partner did not get to become certified for his new job truck driving. This will take us longer to build credit and buy a house. [I’m] not able to save tips up from [my] bartending gig. This has been hard on my mental health, [with] no breaks from children.”

The report is now available on the BCCDC website.

Key findings from the report include:

  • A coordinated, cross-sectoral approach is urgently needed to monitor and alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 on young adults’ health and well-being.
  • The impact of COVID-19-related response measures on young adult health and well-being, and the social determinants of health, were significant and widespread. This could damage the future well-being of this population and have broader societal impacts.
  • Young adults are seeing the highest unemployment rates of any age group; unemployment rates among 18-year-olds to 29-year-olds tripled during the first pandemic wave to the highest levels ever recorded in British Columbia’s history.
  • Young adults are twice as likely to report worsened mental health compared to adults over the age of 65.
  • Widespread post-secondary disruptions during the 2020-2021 academic school year have long-term impacts on career trajectories and employment.
  • Impacts are compounded for those already experiencing the most stress and with the least resources, including racialized groups, LGBTQ2S+ individuals, and young adults with disabilities. In turn, this may contribute to further health inequities by concentrating a range of adverse outcomes in these populations.