Background and Aims: For older adolescents, the COVID-19 pandemic and UK restrictions arrived during a critical period in the transition to adulthood. Early research exploring impact of the pandemic paints a picture of worsened adolescent wellbeing and mental health. We explore the subjective experiences of 16- to 19-year-olds during the first UK lockdown, with an emphasis on wellbeing and coping, to complement quantitative evidence and inform strategies and provision for support.
Methods: In May 2020, we invited UK-based 16- to 19-year-olds to share written accounts of their experiences of the initial UK lockdown for The TELL Study. A total of 109 participants engaged, submitting anonymous written accounts via an online survey portal. We used inductive reflexive thematic analysis to develop rich experiential themes.
Findings: We constructed seven main themes: heightened emotionality; feelings of loss, change, and uncertainty; recognising the value of self-care; efforts to think positively; opportunities for relief, growth, and development; the importance of togetherness; and frustration with government and media.
Implications: Findings highlight the multifaceted nature of adolescents’ lockdown experiences, and offer insight into emotional impact and new concerns alongside the value placed on self-care and staying connected. We offer directions for supporting adolescents as pandemic consequences continue.