The COVID-19 pandemic particularly increased anxiety experienced by young people with disabilities and a foreign background

Publication date 7.3.2024 8.30 | Published in English on 11.3.2024 at 12.46
News item

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people’s welfare were particularly marked in young people with disabilities, and especially those with a foreign background, a recent study by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare reveals. Around 40 per cent of young people with disabilities and a foreign background reported anxiety, compared to only 14 per cent of the population.

The study examined anxiety experienced by pupils in years 8 and 9 of basic education as well as in years 1 and 2 of upper secondary school and vocational education and training in 2021.  

The study also shows that young people with disabilities and a foreign background were more likely than the rest of the population to report that they did not have the support they needed in remote education and that there was an increase in disagreements in their families during the pandemic. These negative effects further increased their anxiety compared to the rest of the population. 

Support needs of vulnerable groups increase during crises

The results of the study highlight that the crisis did not affect all young people in the same way. In particular, young people who experience inequalities due to various factors, such as their foreign background and functional capacity, may find themselves in a vulnerable position. 

Schools, health and social service providers and society more broadly should pay particular attention to young people at risk of becoming particularly vulnerable. They should be offered more targeted and inclusive services and support to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. 

Although in some families, the increase in time spent together due to the pandemic caused conflicts, it also enhanced the sense of belonging in others. From the perspective of vulnerable persons, the pandemic also made visible a number of deficiencies in services that can now be addressed more effectively. 

The study is based on the data of the 2021 School Health Promotion Study on young people (upper secondary school: years 8 and 9, upper secondary school: years 1 and 2, vocational institute: years 1 and 2; n = 165,033).


Holm ME, Skogberg N, Kiviruusu O, Sainio P. Immigrant origin and disability increase risk for anxiety among youth during COVID-19: The role of unmet needs for support in distance learning and family conflicts. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2024.

Further information

Marja Holm
Statistical Researcher
Tel. +358 29 524 8169
[email protected]

Natalia Skogberg
Research Manager
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL
tel. +358 29 524 7916
[email protected]


Maahanmuutto ja kulttuurinen moninaisuus Main site Mielenterveys Toimintakyky koronavirus tutkimusuutinen