New HEAL Study: Neighbourhood influences on youth mental health and stress levels during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic

A team of researchers led by Alexander Wray with Gina Martin, Kendra Nelson Ferguson, Stephanie Coen, Jamie Seabrook and Jason Gilliland recently published an article entitled: “Neighbourhood influences on youth mental health and stress levels during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic” in Cities & Health.

The QuaranTEENing Study developed a teen-informed online survey to understand how youth mental health and stress levels were impacted by policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given youth were unable to attend school in person, they were often constrained to their immediate home environments.

The study team sought to understand how age, gender, ethnicity, dietary habits, physical activity levels, and the availability of parks, fast food, convenience stores and grocery stores could correlate with mental health and stress levels. In addition, the team examined how these relationships varied between youth living in urban areas as compared to those living in suburban areas. The team found suburban-dwelling youth were significantly more affected by features of their surrounding neighbourhoods than urban-dwelling youth in changes to their mental health and stress levels. Park area did not have a substantial impact on these measures, but the presence of fast food and convenience store outlets did. The team hypothesized that these retail locations were sites of social connection for youth, given they were the only destinations outside of the home that people were allowed to go to together.

Citation: Alexander Wray, Gina Martin, Kendra Nelson Ferguson, Stephanie Coen, Jamie Seabrook, and Jason Gilliland. “Neighbourhood influences on youth mental health and stress levels during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Cities & Health. 2023. https://doi.org/10.1080/23748834.2023.2282850

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