BACKGROUND The COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 involved closure of schools and strict limitations on social contact. The study examines whether this had an effect on the life satisfaction and subjective well-being among adolescents.
MATERIAL AND METHOD An online survey among students in lower secondary schools in Oslo (N = 8 116, 46 % response rate) was conducted during the period with closed schools and strict infection control measures. The results were compared to equivalent surveys conducted in Oslo in 2018 (N = 13 790, 83 % response rate) and several other counties in 2020 before the COVID-19 restrictions were introduced (N = 19 799, 49 % response rate). Identical measurements were used for life satisfaction, subjective well-being and background factors. We used logistic regression analysis and corrected for sociodemographic differences.
RESULTS Among boys, the proportion reporting high life satisfaction (a score of 6 or higher on a scale from 0 to 10) declined markedly, from 88 % in 2018 and 92 % in 2020 before the COVID-19 restrictions to 71 % during the period of restrictions (p < 0.001). The equivalent figures for girls were 78 %, 81 % and 62 % (p < 0.001). The social inequality in life satisfaction was smaller during the restrictions than in other periods. Concerns about illness and infection were associated with lower life satisfaction.
INTERPRETATION The reduction in life satisfaction and subjective well-being can most likely be explained by the heavy restrictions placed on activities that promote well-being and by concerns about infection. The results also indicate that resourceful adolescents experienced an especially strong reduction in their life satisfaction.
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