Increased worries related to COVID-19 pandemic associated with worse quality of life in young people

Increased worries related to COVID-19 pandemic associated with worse quality of life in young people
June 13, 2023

New Research looking at experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic for young people in early adolescence has found that those who worried more about the pandemic experienced poorer health and wellbeing outcomes.

The findings published today, by the University of Auckland’s Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study, are based on data collected from over 4400 young people in 2021 when there were Omicron and Delta outbreaks and different levels of restrictions across Aotearoa.

The research showed that levels of worry around the COVID-19 pandemic such as missing out on school and family finances were associated with health and wellbeing outcomes, in particular depression, anxiety and quality of life scores.

According to lead researcher Dr Caroline Walker, “While worrying is a normal response to unknown or concerning situations such as a global pandemic, this research highlights the association between that worry and the young people’s wellbeing. Our research also provides evidence that can be used to inform part of the recovery effort and future pandemic response planning.”

Around two-thirds of young people were found to be worried about missing out on schoolwork due to COVID-19, and over half of young people were worried about family finances or about people getting on in their household due to the pandemic.”

“These findings suggest that in a future pandemic or outbreak the impact of school closures on young people’s wellbeing needs to be taken into account,” said Dr Walker.

“Furthermore, as part of the ongoing recovery effort, ensuring resources and extra support are available for young people that missed out on learning, and measures aimed at improving financial stability for households are likely to benefit young people’s overall wellbeing and quality of life.”

Researchers also found that some groups of young people were more worried than others, showing an association between gender, ethnicity and deprivation levels and worries related to the pandemic.

“The young people who were the most worried tended to be the same young people who already experience social, economic and educational inequities. This supports the evidence that COVID-19 has widened the gap for these groups and there is a need for resources to support those in greatest need,” said Dr Walker.

The research showed that:

  • Two-thirds of young people worried at least sometimes about missing out on schoolwork due to COVID-19.
  • Over half of young people worried about their family finances or how people in their home were getting along due to COVID-19.
  • Increasing worry was associated with worse depression, anxiety and quality of life scores.
  • Some demographic factors were associated with worries and fears including gender, ethnicity and deprivation: Transgender or non-binary young people; Pacific and Middle eastern Latin American and African; and those living in the most deprived areas reported more worries and fears about COVID-19.

The research also highlighted some factors that were protective for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We found that young people with strong parent-child relationships, and those whose mothers worried the least about COVID-19 were less worried themselves and had better wellbeing outcomes,” said Dr Walker.  


If you think you, or someone you know, may be experiencing poor mental health, there are several free tools or services that can help. See the Ministry of Health website for a list of resources or click below for information or support:


For more information contact

Julia Crosfield 

Media and Communications, Growing Up in New Zealand 

027 282 4896 

Saraid Black

Communications Manager, Growing Up in New Zealand

09 923 7390 or 0274 732 211

Note for editors

  • See the research, "COVID-19 Experiences of the pandemic and young people’s wellbeing" here:
  • This research is part of the "Now We Are Twelve" snapshot series looking at the development and wellbeing of twelve-year olds in New Zealand.
  • The series is being published between April and June 2023 and covers the following topics: ethnic and gender identity (published 05/04/23); material hardship (published 05/04/23); food insecurity (published 01/05/23); housing and homelessness (published 01/05/23); school engagement (published 31/05/23); COVID-19 pandemic (published today); experiences of anxiety and depression (published today); impact of disability; and relationships.  
  • See the “Now We Are Twelve” snapshot series here: