PhD Scientific Days 2023

Budapest, 22-23 June 2023

Mental Health Sciences III.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health of Adolescent Boys: Evidence of Declining Trends

Oláh Gyöngyi

Adolescent Development Research Group, Eötvös Lóránd University- Eötvös Lóránd Research Network - Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest 1088, Hungary

Doctoral School of Mental Health Sciences, Semmelweis University, Budapest 1089, Hungary

Text of the abstract

Adolescents have faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, with disruptions in their schooling, social interactions, and mental health. This longitudinal cohort study, conducted as part of a larger developmental project (ELKH-ELTE-PPKE Adolescent Development Research Group), examined the mental health of vocational school students, predominantly male. Our previous findings (Gerván et al., 2022) provided evidence for a critical period of heightened vulnerability in adolescent emotion regulation that is determined by both chronological and biological age, and that differs between males and females.

This presentation aims to investigate the relationship between emotion regulation, affectivity, and alcohol use, as well as biological age, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants were assessed at four time points over a four-year period, with a subset of the sample (class of 2019) undergoing assessment at pre-pandemic (2019), during pandemic (2020-2021), and post-pandemic (2022) time points. Emotion regulation was assessed using DERS, alcohol use was quantified using AUDIT, and affectivity was administered using the PANAS questionnaire. Bone age, as a proxy for pubertal maturity, was determined using an ultrasonic device.

In contrast to previous research indicating improvements in emotion regulation strategies based on age, the results of this study revealed a negative trend of development in emotion regulation skills, health behavior, and affectivity among adolescent boys. One year after the pandemic, an increase in mean scores was observed on DERS subscales of Nonacceptance of emotional responses, Impulse control difficulties, and Limited access to emotion regulation strategies, as well as on AUDIT and Negative Affect. These findings have important implications for interventions targeting emotion regulation skills and health behaviors among adolescent boys, especially during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: adolescents, boys, COVID-19, emotion regulation, longitudinal data, alcohol use, vocational school, biological age, ultrasonic bone age assessment

Reference: Gerván, P., Bunford, N., Utczás, K., Tróznai, Z., Oláh, G., Szakács, H., Kriston, P., Gombos, F., & Kovács, I. (2022). Maturation-dependent vulnerability of emotion regulation as a response to COVID-19 related stress in adolescents. Journal of pediatric nursing, 67, 132–138.