During pandemic, ‘ongoing uncertainty takes a big toll’

Because the coronavirus pandemic affects nearly every aspect of our lives, it will have long-lasting impacts and could be particularly difficult for young people coming of age, according to Karestan Koenen of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, commented on the pandemic’s mental health impacts in a November 24, 2020 Harvard Gazette article, in which seven Harvard experts discussed what the “post-pandemic normal” will look like.

The pandemic is “affecting every milestone: graduation, entering school, leaving school,” said Koenen. “For the older Gen-Zers: marriages, dating, jobs—in fact, there aren’t jobs.” She added, “That ongoing uncertainty takes a big toll. That’s the basis of a traumatic stressor—unpredictability, uncontrollability—until it exceeds the ability of the organism to cope.”

Koenen is concerned that anxiety, depression, and hopelessness could rise among younger Americans. And, after months of enforced isolation and curtailed activities, they may be less willing to try new things. “There are things in our lives that are good to do for our development and those things may provoke anxiety at first,” Koenen said. “What happens if you’re able to avoid normal development challenges? What happens when you don’t get those opportunities?”

Read the Harvard Gazette article: What will the new post-pandemic normal look like?