COVID has taken over every aspect of our lives; almost every headline relates back to it. How has it affected different age groups and in what way?

A recent study in The Economist from Gallup surveyed people across many countries about their levels of happiness. They asked people to judge their life as a ladder from 1 to 10, with 10 being complete satisfaction in life. Britain was hit especially hard with the pandemic, with over 100,000 deaths and 3.8 million cases. It is therefore unsurprising that happiness has significantly dropped from 2017 to 2020.

However, perhaps the most surprising observation is that happiness within younger groups appears to be in freefall. The survey in 2017 showed that teenagers were amongst the happiest groups in society. Now, they are the unhappiest group, with people over 50 being the most content. So what defines happiness, and what has changed?

Judgement of happiness is difficult, given that it is specific to each individual: in fact, some have grown happier over the last year. It would be hard to find someone who is consistently happy because everyone has good days and bad days. However, there is something about spontaneity, relaxation and freedom that lightens the mood which has been conspicuously absent for over a year. It is clear that the pandemic has had a widespread effect on mental health in Britain.

Are your teenage years no longer ‘the best years of your life’? In over a year since the initial lockdown, many young people feel that the time during which they should be living carefree is spent cut off from friends with little to look forward to. With a big reliance on socialising both in and out of school, studies show that teenagers thrive on interaction with their friends – the simple pleasure of sitting in the park chatting for hours about nothing in particular was made illegal.

A small survey of fellow GCSE students showed that they were significantly happier before COVID restrictions came about. In addition to loneliness, year eleven and thirteen pupils continue to face uncertainty about when and how public examinations would occur. Despite vaccinations and gradual restriction lifting, it is hard to imagine we’ll be COVID-free in the near future. I for one hope that my generation will get their fair share of happiness sometime soon.