Global Health: The Negative Impact of Covid-19 Related Restrictions on Mental Health in Students in France

After the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee announced a global emergency back in January 2020, governmental policies to contain the spread of the virus were rapidly implemented across the world. Without precedent, the first shocking decision was made by the Italian government when the Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conti, imposed a total lock-down of the Lombardy region. This resolution created chaos and confusion across Italy when people tried to move away from Lombardy into other areas, collapsing the transportation system (John et Wedeman 2020). At that time, nobody knew that those quarantine measures were soon going to be replicated in almost every country in the world. A “new normal” had begun.

Eventually, travel restrictions were implemented by several countries. By March 2020, The USA had banned travel into its territory from several countries, including the European Union (Euroactive). This pandemic has created vast economic, physical, and psychological damage demonstrated by many scientific studies (Ettaman et al 2020). However, very little research has been conducted on how the pandemic has affected students in countries with more restrictive measures. For this reason, I have decided to focus this article on the mental health of students in France, the country where I have been living for the last couple of months.

A large-scale metanalysis published in The Lancet in January 2021 has revealed the impact of governmental restrictions on mental health in several European countries (France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom). This study shows that people aging from 18-24 years of age have developed the highest prevalence of mental health conditions compared with any other age group (Tibor et al 2021). A study published by the OVE (“L’observatoire de la vie étudiante”) in 2016 showed that French college students were a highly susceptible population regarding mental health problems. For instance, more than half of the students in the study declared experiencing sleep problems while 31% reported depression. Hence, it seems like the newly imposed measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 have exacerbated this already existing crisis (Galland et Tellos 2021).

A recent study conducted by Odoxa, a French polling company (2021), shows that 72% of students fear that their diploma will have less value at the end of the pandemic. Indeed, students are feeling uncomfortable attending classes online. Pedagogical and technical difficulties happen very often. Furthermore, the job market has additionally announced a shortage for the upcoming years (Morvan & Frajerman 2021). Many students feel hopeless about their present and future. 

In regard to the socio-economic difficulties, students are now obligated to study in their tiny rooms. All the social interactions are virtual, and they are forced back into their rooms by 6 pm due to the curfew implemented by the French authorities (Deluzarche 2021). The curfew may be a necessary measure due to the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and the low vaccination rate in the country; however, it is important to consider its negative aspects as well. In addition, in 2016, 46% of students had a complementary job to finance their student life. These part-time jobs were mostly in restaurants, bars, tourism, and entertainment, which are the main institutions affected by the restrictions (Deluzarche 2021). In many cases, students can count on financial aids from their parents; nonetheless, this is not true for all of them.

In conclusion, the accumulation of stressful situations without short-term solutions seems to be very dangerous for this generation. The restrictions are jeopardizing their chance of success putting them in a position of “sacrifice.” Recent cases of students committing suicide, with one of them jumping off his dorm’s roof, is probably the most explicit sign of alert. Despite the evidence that younger individuals seem to be less susceptible to developing complications and passing away from Covid-19, it is important to realize that they are the most susceptible to develop mental health issues in the same context. That is something we should take into consideration in order to create an inclusive public health policy that minimizes the risk to populations in danger.

References

Deluzarche C. Covid-19: comment les scientifiques suivent la flambée des depressions. https://www.futura-sciences.com/sante/actualites/psychologie-covid-19-scientifiques-suivent-flambee-depressions-85674/ (2021)

Ettman CK, Abdalla SM, Cohen GH, Sampson L, Vivier PM, Galea S. Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(9):e2019686. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19686

Euroactive. Europe furious over Trump’s unilateral travel ban. https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/europe-furious-over-trumps-unilateral-travel-ban/ (2020)

Galland, O & Tellos. Les etudiants on desormais leur prope grande depression. http://www.slate.fr/story/199833/grande-deprime-etudiants-universites-covid-19-confinement-crise-perte-emploi (2021)

John, T. & Ben Wedeman, C. Italy prohibits travel and cancels all public events in its northern region to contain Coronavirus. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/08/europe/italy-coronavirus-lockdown-europe-intl/index.html (2020)

Morvan Y & Frajerman A. Covid-19 : comment est mesurée la détresse mentale des étudiants et pourquoi elle est difficile à apprehender. https://www.lejdd.fr/Societe/Education/covid-19-comment-est-mesuree-la-detresse-mentale-des-etudiants-et-pourquoi-elle-est-difficile-a-apprehender-4018795 (2021)

Oxoda. Covid-19: les jeunes ne voient pas le bout du tunnel. http://www.odoxa.fr/sondage/covid-19-jeunes-ne-bout-tunnel/ (2021)

Tibor V. Varga, Feifei Bu, Agnete S. Dissing, Leonie K. Elsenburg, Joel J. Herranz Bustamante, Joane Matta, Sander K.R. van Zon, Sandra Brouwer, Ute Bültmann, Daisy Fancourt, Klaus Hoeyer, Marcel Goldberg, Maria Melchior, Katrine Strandberg-Larsen, Marie Zins, Amy Clotworthy, Naja H. Rod. Loneliness, worries, anxiety, and precautionary behaviours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: a longitudinal analysis of 200,000 Western and Northern Europeans. The Lancet Regional Health – Europe (2021) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lanepe.2020.100020.

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