“It’s been crap... But it feels a bit more hopeful.” Mark, 26
This time last year, young people we spoke to were feeling stressed, scared and uncertain. We’ve just passed the anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdown in most European countries. One year on, for this week’s 52INSIGHTS we asked young people in the UK & Ireland ‘How are you feeling right now?’
Many are, understandably, feeling fed up and frustrated at how long Covid-19 living has been a reality. They miss socialising and physical touch:
“Well I think it’s incredibly sad that a year ago I had so much hope that by now, life would be semi-normal. Yet here we are one year later and not much has changed really; we’re still in lockdown, daily cases are in fact higher than they were this time last year and we still have no roadmap out of this hellhole. Working in healthcare I feel we were promised so much from vaccinations and were led to believe that by being vaccinated we would have a head start at resuming life. Whereas in reality nothing has changed at all; the same rules still apply and nobody is certain of the risk of transmissibility of the virus from a vaccinated person so all the fears and anxiety we thought would lift after this magic vaccine are unfortunately still there. It’s hard to have hope in times like these when we are seeing such linear progress from our government, especially when you compare to other countries and governments' way of approaching this pandemic. If I had to pick one word to sum up how I’m feeling right now it’s frustrated.” Alanah, 26, Dublin, Ireland
“I honestly can’t believe we’re still here a year later. I’m definitely a lot more fed up of everything. At the start it felt like a bit of a novelty and was kind of exciting I suppose because we’d never experienced something like this before. Now I’m over it. It’s not fun to be stuck at home in your office slash bedroom, not being able to see friends and family, not being able to do anything or go out or hug people. I feel as though every social interaction I have now is exhausting, like I’ve forgotten how to properly socialise without also seeing my face on a screen.” Ellen, 25, UK
DELAYED ADULTHOOD & PROGRESS STALLED
For many, the loss of experiences brought on by Covid-19 makes it seem like personal progression has stalled:
“It’s been crap. These are meant to be our most social years and we’re locked away. It feels like our lives have been put on hold and all progress has stalled. It feels like everything - marriages, house buying - like the milestones in our lives will all be pushed out further.” Mark, 26, Ireland
GRATEFUL & CLEAR
On more positive notes, those who have felt safe at home and were able to take time out to reflect, have found some down-time really valuable - a welcome relief from pre-Covid busy-ness:
“One year on I feel a much greater appreciation for the simpler things, my friends who were here all along, places and things which have always been there, and some that haven’t. As some things are cut off from me I am more drawn to finding meaning, harmony and value every single day. Joy is now my main priority, much more than it ever was before. I actively go out of my way to find, appreciate and enjoy love, and my awareness of my time on this earth has definitely heightened. The pandemic has been a challenge in so many ways but it has only helped me grow and flourish into a more aware and open person - I am almost grateful for it as I will take much less things for granted, and can live the rest of my life knowing I lived each day fully!” Frankie [F], 17, UK, London
“For me it's been a crystallizing experience in many ways. When so much has been taken away I realised what things were important to me, and what was just noise and clutter filling up space in my life. I've always loved the outdoors, but I know now how much it nourishes me, and I am excited to explore more of what Ireland has to offer as things open up again.” Jamie [M], 30, Ireland
“In some ways, I’ve slowed down a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself too. It’s definitely a healthier lifestyle and I’ve been comparing myself to people way less. There are good things that have come out of it. I don’t feel the need to spend money or buy things or go out every night now. But that pay off has not been worth it.” Eleanor, 28, London, UK
CONTINUED LOSS, MANAGING EXPECTATIONS & HOPE FOR FUTURE
There is still a sense of continued loss, and the slow recovery is forcing young people to manage their expectations for future celebrations - despite feeling a bit more hopeful now:
“So much stuff I was looking forward to has been cancelled. I can’t wait to travel again and go to gigs and hug my friends. But I think because I’ve been let down and disappointed I’m trying to manage my expectations at the moment. Really, I’ll be happy if I can just sit in a pub with a pint.” Ellen, 25, UK
“I miss hugs, and that's been hard. It will be a huge relief when I can hug my family and friends again without second guessing whether I'm putting them at risk.” Jamie [M], 29, Ireland
“It feels a bit more hopeful - that the end is at least on the way. But it’s frustrating that it’s taking so long.” Mark, 26, Ireland
EMPATHETIC & CONNECTED
The essence of ‘in this together’ spirit is still important to those struggling:
“I’m feeling hopeful about turning a corner in this country as more people are vaccinated. The lockdowns have been tough and it's easy to feel exasperated, but at least with the cloud of a global pandemic overhead you can in some ways feel more comfortable allowing yourself to be stressed out without beating yourself up, knowing that everyone's going through the same struggles you are, and we're all dealing with a strange time the best we can.” Macon, 29, Ireland
AWAKE TO THE WORLD & POLITICAL SYSTEMS
It’s been widely noted that Covid-19 has highlighted the inequalities in the world and flaws in our systems. Youth have taken note:
“Seeing how governments have handled things has been incredibly hard but also really exemplifies how much politics matter. It’s usually so easy to disassociate from what they do day to day, you kind of feel removed from it. But a year on and we’re seeing decisions being made too late, resulting in people losing their jobs, mental health at an all time low, incredible stress on health care systems and the death of so many people who did not need to die. We’ve been seeing first hand how the people in charge matter, their opinions matter and they need to be held accountable. I definitely think it’s an interesting time for politics.” Eleanor, 28, London, UK
MATURE & ENERGIZED FOR THE FUTURE
Older teens have found Covid-19 an opportunity to gain some independence from the school-grind, but are grateful for a bit of normality and support ahead:
“ I’ve learned a lot. It’s been one of the craziest experiences of my life - with its ups and downs. I feel like when we were studying remotely I matured. It felt a bit like having a job in a way- I went about my own agenda. I could go for a run during a free class. It did get difficult and I was quite lonely, but every lunch my friends and I had a Zoom and we’d pretend we were in school and eat lunch together. It’s so nice doing that in person again now. I’m optimistic that I won’t have to do this next year. I’m relieved now we are back in school. Everyone really appreciates it. Everyone’s a lot more attentive to day to day things. ” Katie, 17, Ireland
“The workload at home was tough and we were self-teaching a lot. Being at home was more stressful but being in school is more tiring. I’m eager to get things done now I’m back in school.” Alanah, 17, Ireland
TEENS: THE LIMBO GENERATION
Younger teens are still in limbo, and parents worry about their wellbeing & losses:
“Young teenagers are the limbo generation.. Watching my two teens zoned out in front of Zoom for hour after hour, with no access to friends, sport or the outside world, is heartbreaking. That cohort is among the least at risk, most often vilified and paying the price for ineffective contact tracing.” @jenoconnell (parent), Ireland
It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and youth sentiment right now reflects that, swinging from low to high easily and often. While there is a sense of light at the end of the tunnel, there is also an understanding that expectations for the near future will need to be managed carefully.
Brands looking to help and connect with young people need to be emotionally empathetic to the various scenarios that people will be navigating over the coming months. Some ways to do this include:
- Enable escapism - welcome in coping with general Covid-19 fatigue - by helping young people to feel some sense of relief or progress in lieu of certainty elsewhere.
- Tap into newfound simple joys and smaller celebration moments - for example, looking at how to enhance outdoor exploration or respond to that ‘first vaccinated hug’ moment.
- Support those still struggling with losses or loneliness. How could you give young people an opportunity to reconnect safely or feel like they can personally progress?
COVID-19: HOW ARE YOUTH FEELING RIGHT NOW?
“Honestly, it’s quite scary… It’s terrifying.” Gil, 14, UK
YOUTH, BLAME & COVID-19
Young people are struggling right now. They’re grieving their losses – for the lost possibilities of today and the opportunities of tomorrow. Meanwhile, many are...