YOUNGER adults reported higher levels of worry as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, according to new research.

Psychologists at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) surveyed 726 people living in Scotland during lockdown to find out the impact that coronavirus measures were having on mental health.

Despite having the lowest risk of serious illness from the virus, they found that nearly half (48 per cent) of participants aged 18 to 24 met the criteria for anxiety, compared to around a quarter of those aged 45 to 64.

The researchers also found a "significant association" between anxiety and exposure to Covid-19-related information on social media, with those who reported frequent use of social media - defined as checking for updates 20 or more times a day - being nearly twice as likely to be suffering from anxiety as those with low social media use.

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Income was also a factor, with 39% of respondents whose income was below average meeting the psychologists' definition of anxiety compared to 21% of those with an above average income.

Of those who had a pre-existing mental health condition, 53% were experiencing anxiety during lockdown compared to 43% of those with a pre-existing physical condition.

The research was led by GCU head of psychology Dr Kerri McPherson and senior lecturer in applied health psychology Dr Kareena McAloney, with support from lecturer Dr Birgit Schroeter and researcher Pia Faeth.

Dr McAloney said: “Younger individuals in particular often had higher concerns, as did those with pre-existing health conditions. Media consumption and income were also significantly associated with higher levels of some Covid-19 concerns."

It comes as data from Public Health Scotland shows that by June this year, 1,136 children and young people had been waiting more than a year for treatment through NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) - an increase of 581 on the same point last year.

Campaigners also warned over a "staggering" 56% drop in referrals to 3,985 between April and June this year, compared to 9,017 during the previous three months.

The number of young people starting mental health treatment during April to June was also down by 13.6%, to 3561.

Scottish Conservative mental health spokesman, Brian Whittle MSP, said: “These vulnerable young people have been waiting for more than a year, so this is not just an issue created by the Covid pandemic.

“The SNP Government took its eye off the ball on mental health long before the pandemic struck. They are failing some of the most vulnerable children and young people who require urgent mental health support.

“This many children waiting over a year to even start treatment is an absolutely appalling statistic and one that should shame SNP Ministers into urgent action."

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The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading independent and third sector providers of children’s services, warned that self-isolation and social distancing have had an impact on young people struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression.

A spokesman for the SCSC commented: “These latest figures are deeply troubling and point to a ‘perfect storm’ for our young people, with increased demand coupled with cuts in services.

“While referrals have dropped during lockdown and children are not accessing support, we are storing up immense problems for the future as specialist mental health services face being overwhelmed due to greatly increased demand."

Similar patterns were seen in adult psychological therapy, where referrals were down 44% and the number of people starting treatment down nearly 40% compared to the first quarter of the year.

Some of this was due to staff being re-deployed during the pandemic or the switch to online-only appointments, which not all patients wished to take up.