New study on the effects of social isolation and lockdown on adolescents in Oxfordshire launched | University of Oxford

New study on the effects of social isolation and lockdown on adolescents in Oxfordshire launched

13 May 2020

A new study, launched today, will determine current risks to adolescents with regards to isolation, online behaviours, anxiety and patterns of seeking support during COVID-19 crisis. In partnership with researchers at the University of Oxford, schools in Oxfordshire can agree to take part in the study for pupils aged 9 to 18 years (Years 5 to 13).

This study - Oxfordshire Online Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey 2020 - will investigate school pupils’ health and wellbeing by asking young people to log in anonymously to an online survey either at home, or when returned to school. A survey was first conducted in May-July 2019, where over 4,000 Oxfordshire pupils in 36 schools took part. This year changes have been made to the survey so that it is relevant to the current COVID-19 challenges.

Mina Fazel, Associate Professor at the University of Oxford and lead researcher on the study said, 'We are very excited to launch the 2020 Online Pupil survey. It will give us a unique opportunity to understand how young people are managing during lockdown, helping us to ensure that we are as prepared as possible to support their mental health needs now and when schools formally open again.'

The study aims to measure the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of school pupils and to identify patterns for seeking support, so that mental health services and resources in schools can be tailored according to current identified needs.

The factors assessed in the survey include:

  • Mental wellbeing
  • Anxiety
  • Indicators of vulnerability
  • Sleep patterns
  • Online safety
  • Protective factors, such as exercise and healthy eating
  • Attitudes to accessing mental health support

The results will present a comprehensive picture of the attitudes and behaviour change of the pupils over time and give important insight into the mental health needs of these children and young people.

Prior to the pandemic, the mental health of adolescents had been of concern as data shows 1 in 8 would benefit from mental health services. Isolation in adolescence is likely to be particularly detrimental and so any ramifications on mental health are essential to identify and address. The data collected will be analysed quickly as the findings will be relevant to schools and services locally, nationally and beyond.

Mina Fazel continues, 'We will assess any changes in mental wellbeing related to COVID-19, by comparing the survey results to the same measures collected in 2019 and to the planned data collection when schools reopen. The findings of this research are very important not only to researchers, but also mental health service providers, local authorities and schools. This information will help us all to plan for what is actually needed now for our children in our schools.'

The anonymised results of this survey can be accessed directly by schools as well as services, making it as useful and helpful as possible to as many relevant services as possible.

The research project is organised by Associate Professor Mina Fazel and Dr Karen Mansfield, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. The research is funded primarily by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.

For further information, please contact: Genevieve Juillet, Media Relations Manager (Research and Innovation), University of Oxford, gen.juillet@admin.ox.ac.uk

Notes to editor:

  • For more information about the Oxfordshire Online Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey 2020, https://www.psych.ox.ac.uk/research/schoolmentalhealth
  • The University Department of Psychiatry’s mission is to conduct world-class research, teach psychiatry to medical students, develop future researchers in a graduate programme, teach doctors in training, promote excellence in clinical practice, and develop and provide innovative clinical services. It supports research in four key areas: neurobiology, psychological treatments, developmental psychiatry and social psychiatry. The Department is committed to the translation of scientific discovery into benefits for patients. www.psych.ox.ac.uk 
  • Funding for the University of Oxford’s coronavirus research is crucial to the development of a vaccine and the subsequent delivery of effective drugs to combat this new virus. Unprecedented speed, scope and ambition is required.
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  • The NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre is a partnership between the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Oxford. We aim to bring the best science to the complex problems of mental health and dementia. www.oxfordhealthbrc.nihr.ac.uk