Mood and emotional reactivity of adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic: short-term and long-term effects and the impact of social and socioeconomic stressors

Sci Rep. 2021 Jun 2;11(1):11563. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-90851-x.


Adolescence is a formative period for socio-emotional development which is threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The current longitudinal study examined two aims: (1) the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic on young people's mood (i.e. vigor, tension, and depression levels) and emotional reactivity (i.e. fluctuations in daily mood), and (2) the impact of stressors on mood, emotional reactivity, self-oriented (i.e. maladaptive behavior towards COVID-19 rules) and other-benefitting behaviors (i.e. behavior aimed at helping and comforting others). We conducted an online two-week daily diary study among 462 Dutch adolescents (Mage = 15.27 years, 64% females) and 371 young adults (Mage = 21.49 years, 81% females) in May 2020, with a follow-up in November 2020 (N = 238 and 231, respectively adolescents and young adults). In May 2020, young adults and older relative to younger adolescents showed higher levels and more fluctuations in tension and depression and lower levels of vigor. Vigor levels decreased and tension and depression levels increased between May 2020 and November 2020, especially for younger adolescents. There were positive associations between instability of negative emotions (i.e. tension and depression fluctuations) and the exposure to stressors (i.e. family stress and inequality of online homeschooling) in the adolescent sample. Together, this study demonstrates vulnerability regarding young people's mood and emotional reactivity during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for adolescents who experience more stressors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Age Factors
  • COVID-19* / psychology
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology
  • Emotions*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult