TEENS and people in their 20s could be left with severe anxiety problems due to a lack of social interaction caused by pandemic lockdowns, one of Ireland’s leading psychologists has suggested.
However, Chair of Psychology at NUI Galway Professor Gary Donohoe believes social media and Zoom hangouts are key tools to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19 isolation.
This comes as a top immunology expert said yesterday it is “very naive” to believe a Covid-19 vaccine will eliminate the killer bug.
The country has been under the strictest emergency restrictions of the Government’s five-stage plan in a bid to curtail the spread of infection since last Thursday.
As a result of the tougher rules, people are banned from having any visitors to their homes except on compassionate grounds and for essential reasons, such as childcare.
Prof Donohoe believes the social isolation caused by the pandemic restrictions will lead to long-term mental health issues for teenagers and people in their early 20s.
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Speaking to the Irish Sun, he said: “The people who will struggle most from a mental health perspective are going to be our young people.
“For those of us in our 30s and 40s it is certainly a nuisance and an inconvenience and problematic but we know who we are as people, we know how to adapt and we probably have lots of good social structures we can rely on.
“By comparison, the stage that teenagers and people in their early 20s are at is that their whole point in life is to figure out who they are and to develop the ability to get along with people.
“Psychologically that’s what your job is when you’re a teenager and in your early 20s and that fundamentally depends on the ability to mix with other people.
“There is lots and lots of good evidence to show that when that gets interrupted it is associated with a significant increase in mental health problems and particularly problems with anxiety.”
He added: “The fear is you will see a marked increase in young people having anxiety-related problems and an increased need for mental health services.
“What we need is for people to be able to socially interact and develop and if that is prevented, it is impossible that it won’t have any impact on people.
“It will have a significant impact on a certain percentage of the population who are maybe vulnerable to begin with.”
The mental health expert believes that social media and Zoom interactions are a good way for young people to mitigate the impact of Covid restrictions on their mental health.
Prof Donohoe explained that keeping a routine in your day, exercising outdoors and reviewing the demands we place on ourselves are the best tips to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic.
He said: “Use whatever means you have to stay socially connected. We all got great at using Zoom and sending texts and social media has become a very important thing across the population.
“As adults, we have a tendency to say ‘you’re doing for too much social media’ but provided it’s within limits.
“I actually think social media is really important for young people.
“If there is some constraint on it, I would say a certain amount of social media connection is really important for people.
“It is part of the solution and it might help to mitigate some of the issues that are going on.
“It’s no replacement for actually being able to sit and talk to somebody face to face but it is a very good way of mitigating what’s going on now.”
Meanwhile, it has been revealed how the Covid-19 vaccine which is being developed by the University of Oxford produces a similar immune response in both older and younger adults.
The vaccine also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca said yesterday.
Reports that older people get an immune response from the vaccine are positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are those most at risk of dying from the virus.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate vaccine, as the world tries to plot a path out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But one immunology expert, Paul Moynagh, offered a bleak outlook for the possibility of a vaccine coming to the rescue.
The Maynooth University professor said “we need to be very careful” in treating a coronavirus vaccine as if it is a silver bullet.
When asked if we should stop thinking of a vaccine as a solution to solve everything, he told Newstalk Breakfast yesterday: “Yes, I think we need to be very careful there.
“It depends on how widely available a vaccine is, what the uptake is, how effective it is.
“The bar required in order to get the vaccine to eliminate the virus is enormously high. The vaccine will be an important contributor to dealing with Covid-19 and reducing its impact.”
He added: “But thinking that the vaccine is going to be released and that this is going to be the panacea, this is going to eradicate the virus — I think that’s a very naive one.
“In terms of strategy going forward, we need to move beyond the vaccine whilst accepting that it will be a very important help to us.”
He also said for a Covid-19 vaccine to be effective, it is very important to get a big uptake in people taking it — which could be problematic as a new Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association survey found that only 55 per cent of people would opt to avail of one.
Professor Moynagh said: “Obviously you’d like to get that figure as high as possible.
“Maybe some people are worried about the speed at which we are moving towards gettting a vaccine approved because in terms of developing vaccines it’s quite a long process taking a number of years.
Dad and two brothers dead after murder-suicide sparked by will dispute
Family members dead after horror shooting in Kanturk, Cork, named & pictured
John Gilligan ‘literally’ crapped his pants after seeing cops dig up revolver
Device that kills 99.999 per cent of Covid in air ‘can help end lockdown’
DONEGAL TO PLAY FOR
Tickets for Donegal house draw sold across globe with just weeks to go
Fine Gael at top of poll at 27 per cent as Sinn Fein support remains steady
“Prior to this, the fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps, which was around four years.
“So maybe some people are worried in terms of the speed at which we’re moving but certainly that shouldn’t be a concern in terms of the process that is being followed.
“Obviously in terms of adhering to safety and measuring how safe the various vaccines are, that process is still intact.”