The scientific community has identified children and young people as a population group with a great of need for research into the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on an initiative from the Academy of Finland, NordForsk is launching a Nordic research programme on the long-term effects of the pandemic on children and young people’s welfare. The aim is to pool Nordic knowledge, Nordic experiences and Nordic funding to find common solutions promoting the wellbeing of children and young people. By allowing young people to be heard, the goal is to find ways to better prepare for future societal crises. The call for applications will open in September.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Nordic countries in spring 2020, the extent and severity of the threat imposed on the health and welfare of the population was not immediately obvious. The research community, however, reacted promptly to the need for new knowledge by addressing new research questions related to the virus, the disease, the restrictions and the effects of these on our society.
Last year at the Academy of Finland, we analysed what these new research questions were and what perspectives and research topics the researchers had selected. Our objective was to identify common pandemic-related themes that the researchers had prioritised.
Our analyses showed that the researchers had chosen to focus on Covid-19-related research questions both in health sciences and in social sciences. An interesting observation was that “child” and “children” were two of the most used words in the Covid-19 applications, both in health and societal themes.
So, the research community had identified children as the population group in which the pandemic caused the greatest number of new questions. The group is also in greatest need of research data in order to reduce the harmful effects of the pandemic. Read more about the analysis in our previous blog post: How have Finnish researchers reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences?
This observation caught our interest, especially as ever more alarming reports about growing distress among children and young people were emerging. We contacted our Nordic colleagues with a suggestion for a joint effort to support research on the wellbeing of children and young people in the aftermaths of the pandemic.
We are pleased to see that the initiative has been positively and enthusiastically received and is now resulting in a NordForsk call for research proposals, Welfare among Children and Young People in the Post-Pandemic Nordics. The overall objective of the programme is to support and accelerate cutting-edge Nordic research on the long-term effects of the pandemic on the welfare of children and young people, with special emphasis on mental health, education and living conditions.
Long-term effects of the pandemic still unknown
The foundations for a healthy and successful life as an adult are laid during childhood and adolescence. Physical and mental health problems in childhood, as well as unfavourable economic and social circumstances, are often carried on into adult life unless active countermeasures are taken. When the pandemic hit, all Nordic countries quickly introduced restrictions, many of which directly affected the everyday life of children and young people. Schools rapidly rearranged the education to be conveyed either exclusively or partly by remote contact instead of in the classroom, however with notable differences between the different countries and age groups. Hobbies were put on hold, libraries and sports arenas were closed, further limiting the possibilities for social encounters and activities.
Schools are in a crucial position in supporting the welfare of children and young people and mitigating the effects of societal inequalities. The Nordic countries have similar education systems and a similar demography, but they chose to handle the pandemic differently. What consequences does this have? In the NordForsk call, researchers are encouraged to propose interdisciplinary research projects taking advantage of the opportunities for comparative approaches created by the different pandemic strategies in the Nordic countries. The aim is to pool Nordic knowledge, Nordic experiences and Nordic funding to jointly enable research that strives to find concrete solutions to strengthen wellbeing among children and young people. A further aim is to include children and young people in the projects, to give them a voice and to take their perspectives into account.
When the pandemic hit, children and young people were forced into situations that none of us could have envisioned. They had to reduce their lives, not primarily for their own sake but to protect those in our society most at risk. This is why we have an obligation to listen to what young people have to say, to learn from their experiences and find solutions to support their wellbeing on the verge of adulthood. And we have an obligation to be better prepared when the next societal crisis hits.
For more information on research funded by the Academy of Finland and The Strategic Research Council (SRC) on the Covid-19 pandemic and other social crises see our website:
- The Strategic Research Council (SRC) Programme: Pandemics as a Challenge for Society (PANDEMICS).
Our objective is to use these programmes to support the utilisation of research results in society to mitigate the effects of pandemics and other crises and to strengthen crisis preparedness.
In autumn 2022, the Strategic Research Council (SRC) will launch the programme Children and Young People – Healthy, Thriving and Capable Makers of the Future (YOUNG). This programme focuses on children and young people as members of society and as makers of the future, and research under the theme shall seek solutions to ensure equal opportunities for all children and young people for a good life and safe growth and development.