BRUSSELS (Reuters) – People under 35 have been made sadder and lonelier than older adults as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, a European survey found, concluding that the strain of being separated from friends and family was taking a tougher toll on the young.
The report, from an online survey of 85,000 people across the continent by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, found a sharp deterioration in reported quality of life among all ages.
With most Europeans confined to their homes by the coronavirus outbreak, 16% said they were lonely “all or most of the time” over the past two weeks, up from just 6% who described themselves as lonely in surveys before the crisis.
The foundation’s report noted that the effect was much sharper among those under 35, 20% of whom now said they were lonely, up from just 4% in normal times.
“This probably implies that young people feel they have been more affected by the restrictions than other age groups, with social events being cancelled and their inability to meet their friends and family outside the household,” Eurofound said.
Younger adults also reported lower levels of overall happiness and satisfaction, and lower mental health scores than their older peers, although they were more likely to be optimistic about the future.
The report found differences across countries, which may reflect how long they have been in lockdown or how severe the crisis has been. Greeks and Bulgarians reported the lowest level of life satisfaction. Loneliness was most common among the French.
Just 46% of citizens were optimistic about their own future, down 18 percentage points from a 2016 European Quality of Life Survey. Optimism was below average in countries hardest-hit by the virus, including France, Italy, Belgium and Spain.
A quarter of respondents said they had lost their job either temporarily or permanently, with young men most affected. Half said they had seen a reduction in their working hours.
Almost 40% described their financial situation as worse than before the pandemic, close to half indicated that their households could not make ends meet and more than half reported that they would not be able to maintain their standard of living without an income.
(Reporting by John Chalmers; Editing by Peter Graff)