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Human wellbeing and planet wellbeing: Do children and young people have a fair chance?

By Mogens Kirkeby, ISCA President

We are giving our children a huge task to restore the planet’s ‘wellbeing’. With such a burden we should at least give our children and young people a fair chance to enjoy personal wellbeing! ISCA President Mogens Kirkeby was invited to give a short intervention at the EU CULT Committee Shadow Rapporteurs’ online meeting with stakeholders on 4 March 2022, called “The impact of COVID-19 closures of educational, cultural, youth and sports activities on children and young people in the EU”. This was his message to those present.

COVID-19 has hit our children and young people hard. Extremely hard. According to OECD presenter Shunta Takino, anxiety and depression increased by 200% among youth and their physical activity has declined by almost 50% during the pandemic, with vulnerable and low income communities the worst hit, as reported by the Lancet.

In order words, young people’s mental and physical health have worsened over the past two years – which is not fair.

All sectors, from education and public health to political decision makers and civil society, know the strong documented evidence that a physically active lifestyle is crucial to children and young people’s health. Social relations are also key to their personal development. COVID-19 hit negatively on all these parameters.

It would therefore be a fair for any young person to ask us: While older generations are giving us the huge burden to restore the planet’s wellbeing, could you at least give us a fair chance to provide personal wellbeing?

And we have no excuses. The solutions are cheap and effective – just a bit complex. But by no means more complex than restoring the planet’s wellbeing.

Key mental health statistics and observations from Shunta Takino, OECD, presented at the meeting:

  • “There is little evidence of a return to pre-crisis levels (of mental wellbeing), and in the few European countries where we have close to real-time data, we actually see a further deterioration of mental health. In Belgium and France, the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety stood at 43.4% and 36% respectively in January 2022, which is actually higher than the levels you can see in this chart from July 2021.”
  • “Almost one in four young people said they felt lonely more than half of the time over the past two weeks in February to March 2021.”
  • “While digital and remote learning may have helped to overcome some of the challenges faced, school disruptions can take away protective factors such as daily routine, sense of belonging and access to physical exercise.”
  • On the positive side: “At the turn of the millennium in 2000, no OECD country had a dedicated child or adolescent mental health plan in place, but now most do.”


This comment piece is based on Mogens Kirkeby's presentation at the CULT Committee Shadow Rapporteurs' meeting - the slides are available here.

Posted on 08/03/2022 by Mogens Kirkeby, ISCA President


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