Challenge. Change. Podcast
Decades of research have shown Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a developmental psychologist and senior research scholar at Clark, that people in their 20s can bounce back from adversity quickly. But new data have led Arnett to question whether today’s 18- to 29-year-olds may be less resilient than previous generations.
Young people are in roughly the same amount of mental distress now as they were at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Arnett’s findings, which were published in a report commissioned and released by the Ruderman Family Foundation. In fact, 18- to 29-year-olds have had the highest levels of anxiety and depression since the pandemic onset.
“I would’ve theorized that this group would have the lowest rates of mental health distress from the impact of COVID-19 because they’re the least susceptible physically; they’re the least likely to be hospitalized of any age group, and the least likely to die,” says Arnett, who coined the term “emerging adulthood” to describe the period from one’s late teens to late-20s.
Arnett wants to interview young people to pinpoint the sources of their increased mental distress in 2020, and why this trend has continued three years later.
“Right now, we don’t have that information and we urgently need it,” he says. “We need to know this for the next pandemic, but we also need to recognize that this pandemic is not over. It’s not over in hospitalizations and deaths, and it’s not over in respect to mental health.”