Coping strategies and mental health: quantitative and qualitative insight into the COVID‑19 experience in young adults

Sylvestre, Marie-Pierre | $457,422

Quebec Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal 2021 CIHR Project Grant

Accumulating evidence suggests that COVID‑19 is affecting mental health and well-being, and that young adults are hardest hit. Not addressing this issue could have important impact on the ability of young adults to “pick up where they left off,” especially if this increased vulnerability erodes their enthusiasm, hope and resiliency to fully re-engage post-pandemic when doing so is critical for their families, society and the economy. Yet fundamental evidence that could inform policy and programming in Canada is lacking, including descriptions on how mental health has evolved among Canadians during COVID-19, better understanding of coping strategies used by young adults to deal with COVID‑19 stress (i.e., substance use, physical activity, screen time, online support groups, reliance on social media), whether these coping strategies helped, and identification of specific higher-risk subgroups of young adults that need help the most (e.g., mothers balancing telework with childcare; heads of households who lost their jobs; vulnerable young adults unable to access mental health services). To address these gaps, we will leverage data from two well-established cohorts of young adults in two provinces with very different COVID‑19 experiences (NDIT in Quebec; MATCH in New Brunswick). NDIT has pre-pandemic data in 24 data collections spanning age 12 to 33 (1999- 2020). MATCH has 25 data collections spanning age 9 to 20 (2011- 20). More specifically, we will use pre- and early pandemic data in combination with newly collected quantitative and qualitative data in Fall 2021 and Fall 2022, to monitor trends in mental health and coping strategies in both cohorts. Qualitative data on the pandemic lived experience will be collected in 85 one-on-one interviews. These data, combined with ongoing consultations with our knowledge users, will inform discussion on developing, repurposing, and scaling up mental health interventions targeting young adults during pandemics.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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