The medical journal The Lancet has examined the impact of social distancing on adolescents. The summary points out that young people between the ages of 10 and 24 need to interact face-to-face with their peers to develop fully, both behaviourally and neurologically.

As these are their formative years they are highly vulnerable to isolation.

The study notes that “Social interactions are … a basic human need, analogous to other fundamental needs such as food consumption or sleep.  Indeed, feeling insufficiently connected to others is associated with profound and lasting negative consequences on physical and mental health, even leading to increased mortality.”

How missing months of school time affects young people in terms of educational attainment and personal growth is unknown at this point. The question is what can be done especially if there is a resurgence of the virus.

Hard clinical evidence can be worked with as to the benefits of social isolation and to its costs. This is the job of social scientists, public health staff, and decision-makers to balance the impacts and to choose the best route forward.

Published:April 14th, 2020
The Lancet, Child & Adolescent Health – Mental health effects of school closures during COVID-19