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Impact of Coronavirus on adolescents and young adults

Graham Flaherty
Impact of Coronavirus on adolescents and young adults

Have lockdowns and restrictions impacted how young people develop in their formative years


Throughout adolescence and early adulthood, people are not only undergoing physical changes but also learning how to interact with the world around them. During this period, they begin to form an identity and discover how they fit in to society. Three aspects of discovering identity include self-sameness – which is formed between interactions with similar people, uniqueness – how people differentiate themselves from others, and psychosocial development – the mental and physical health of adolescents. 

Throughout teenage years individuals will test boundaries and navigate puberty, social pressures, and emotional turmoil. During early adulthood individuals start to form relationships and reach critical milestones such as starting a family. Interacting with and forming relationships with others is one of the most significant aspects of humankind and essential to individual wellbeing. Those who don’t manage to form bonds may fall behind their peers and struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation. 


The impact of Coronavirus on development


As we have mentioned previously, those who don’t manage to form strong bonds may start to feel alienated and isolated compared to their peers. The lockdowns imposed to limit the spread of the Coronavirus have had a significant impact on people’s wellbeing. According to a recent study conducted in November 2020, 25% of participants reported feeling lonely within the last two weeks. Feelings of isolation were particularly high amongst the 18-24 age group (38%) and 25-34 age group (34%). People were also feeling more anxious, with 45% of respondents saying that they had feelings of anxiety within the last two weeks. 

One of the main ways young people formed close bonds was through their place of study. From childhood up until early adulthood many individuals spend a large portion of time at school and university, and it’s unsurprising that they meet with a lot of people and make a lot of friends. Schools and universities not only provide a place for people to learn and socialise, but the extracurricular activities available allows individuals to pursue new interests and refine skills. 


In March 2020 as everything in the UK went into lockdown, schools and universities closed to stop the spread of the virus. Learning was transferred online, with lectures and lessons being delivered via web apps such as Zoom. This, combined with the rules of lockdown meaning that individuals were unable to socialise with people outside of their “bubble”, meant that there was less opportunity for human interaction. 


Socialisation opportunities at university


Many find going to university an enriching experience. Not only do people get to expand their knowledge on a particular subject, but as it’s often people’s first time living away from home, they learn important life skills. Living away from home also gives individuals the opportunity to meet other people, whether through the halls of residence, lectures, or societies. 

The societies on offer vary from university to university and new societies can be set up by students to reflect their interests. Some are more generic and can be found at most universities such as the Rugby Union Society, and some are more niche such as the Doctor Who Society at the University of Hull. Joining a society gives students the opportunity to meet people who have a shared interest. 

Record number of students attending to university in the 21/22 year


According to UCAS, a record number of students are expected to begin studying at university this autumn. The final deadline to apply for up to five courses was the 30th June, and by that time there were 682,010 applicants. 

It was also a record-breaking year in terms of A-level results in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland as well, with 44.8% of students being awarded A* or A grades. This is the second year running formal exams have been cancelled, but instead of using an algorithm, grades were set by teachers and then quality assured by an exams board. 

The record number of top grades awarded combined with more people going to university has put pressure on places for top universities and competitive courses. Those who fail to meet grade requirements have the option to go through the Clearing process. The process is open from the 5th of July – 30th of October to those who do not hold an offer from a university or college or have declined their firm offer.  Although the process is still open for the 2021/22 year, the number of students who get a place at a university through Clearing is significant. Last year around 70,000 students were accepted through Clearing, with around 52,000 having originally applied through the UCAS route and the rest waiting for the process to open before applying to university.


Al time high student numbers – an opportunity for investors?


The record number of students going to university means there will be a bigger demand than ever for purpose-built student accommodation, especially in cities with a top-ranking university or few housing options close to campus. 

Lancaster University for example ranks 10th overall in the 2021 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide yet suffers from a lack of purpose-built student accommodation close to the campus. Historically there were around 11,000 full time students in Lancaster, the majority of whom required accommodation yet there were nearly two students to every room. This means existing accommodation is always in demand, and high rental yields can be achieved in Lancaster. In fact, according to research conducted by UniHomes, Lancaster has seen rental yields increase by 1% since the beginning of 2020, despite the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The closest purpose-built student accommodation block to Lancaster University is The Mill. It is an attractive option to students because of its proximity to Lancaster University and so a contracted 7% yield for five years is offered to investors. Attractive onsite amenities include a gym, games room, cinema, and café. The development is completed and tenanted, which removes some uncertainty in terms of completion and occupancy that can come with off-plan developments. Apartments in The Mill start from £91,950. 

Another student accommodation investment opportunity that is also completed is Poulson House in Stoke-on-Trent. Students like Poulson House because it is one of the only studio developments. Having additional space and being a self-contained unit has become increasing important since Covid-19.  What’s more Paulson House is university approved and run by the university affiliated student union. The lack of competition allows for good occupancy levels and it has generated impressive occupancy levels since completion in 2018 three years ago, accommodating students from both Staffordshire University and Keele University. Onsite facilities include a gym, games room, and recreation room. A 7% return is contracted, backed by actual income and financials. Apartments in Poulson House start from £59,500. 


Most universities in 2021 adopted a blended approach to teaching, offering a mixture of in person and online classes. Smaller classes such as seminars and tutorials were taught in person where social distancing measures could be enforced, whereas larger classes were often taught online. 

It is expected that this will continue into the 2021/22 academic year, with more face-to-face learning gradually re-introduced. Learning materials and recordings of lectures will be available online for those who are self-isolating or shielding to ensure they won’t be at a disadvantage with their learning. 

Societies are also expected to run although some may be run in smaller groups or offer a mixture of online and in person activities. The gradual re-introduction of in person socialisation will allow students to experience an almost normal university experience. 

Schools have also re-opened for the Autumn term. Students will be in the classroom although certain measures will be put in place to reduce the transmission of Coronavirus, including staggering returns and requiring secondary school students to take two lateral-flow tests two to five days apart. 

As venues and institutions begin to open their doors again, there are now more opportunities for people of all ages to socialise freely. Recent studies have found that after prolonged periods of loneliness caused by lockdowns may not just impact the social development of adolescents and young adults, but that people of all ages may have to re-learn how to socialise. Lengthy spells of Isolation can affect memory and verbal recall and those with smaller networks tend to have a smaller amygdala. Schools and universities are instrumental in providing an academic education, and in equipping people with life skills that will put them in good stead for the future. 

The life on pause, has now begun… 

Graham Flaherty
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