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Young people, Covid19 and burn-out

Date:30 March 2021
Young people, Covid19 and burn out
Young people, Covid19 and burn out

Since the introduction of the Covid19 pandemic, there has certainly been a discussion about the young people. Young people would feel the consequences of the (intelligent) lock-down even more strongly. They no longer go outside, can no longer meet their peers, cannot go to school and can only exercise to a limited extent. In short, their social life has collapsed and that weighs heavily on them. There are signs of increasing depression and other negative mental consequences among young people. On the other hand, older people are also affected by the Covid19 crisis. Old people are locked up in nursing and care homes and can only sporadically see their own children.

The consequences are also major for me, a man, sixty, single, with a permanent job. I am also strongly restricted in my activities. I work alone at home, and have been unable to pursue many of my hobbies in the past year. No sailing at sea because the one and a half meters cannot be observed on the ships. No trips to Berlin to meet friends and enjoy the cultural and culinary offer. And above all, no longer being able to play soccer with friends in Groningen. Highlights are the family visits and the occasional meetings with friends, in (very) small numbers.

If you read the above, there is a competition that takes place in these uncertain times: the young from the elderly. I do not have an unambiguous answer to that, but there are indications, also from pre-Covid19 times, that the young people are having a harder time. One indication is that young people, even before the Covid19 crisis, are more likely to have burnout complaints than older people. Almost one in five young people scored higher than 3.2 on the standard scale used to measure burnout complaints. And that is much and more than average.

Why is it that many of the youths are becoming spiritually exhausted early in their careers? On one hand, it is the work. The workload in various sectors has risen sharply in recent years. Many professionals complain about an increasing bureaucracy in the (semi-) government sectors in particular, causing the work to be out of balance. The employees do not feel that they can handle this workload well. They lack the necessary autonomy and regulatory powers to deal with normal work pressure. There are high job demands and fewer control options. This is also explained in the WRR report¹ 'The better work. The new assignment ', which I've talked about before. In addition to another problem, young people have insecurity on the labor market.

In a recent study, we divided the working young people into different groups: a group of students who are still working while studying, a group of young people who have permanent career jobs, i.e. have a permanent contract and work a minimum of 16 hours per week, and a group of young people who work at least sixteen hours a week but via a flexible construction. What appears? Of these groups, the ones with flexible jobs experience the most  uncertainty and this uncertainty has a strong effect on a burnout, even when we check for the risk of job loss.

Students who also have flexible jobs do not worry about that. The job is only to finance the studies, not for a career. But once entering the labor market, flexibility results in a greater risk of a burnout. And it is precisely in this time of Covid19 that the flexible jobs were cut first. People with a permanent contract often still have their job, or because they can still 'just' go to work like I do, or because they work much less hours, but still receive a salary with the help of the NOW-arrangement. The young people who were strongly over-represented in flexible work do not benefit there. And that in addition to their other problems, such as finding affordable housing, paying off student debts and other uncertainties in uncertain times.


For more information, please contact Dr. Peter van der Meer (p.h.van.der.meer

You can read the Dutch version of this blog here.

¹ WRR Report 102. Het betere werk. De nieuwe maatschappelijke opdracht. Den Haag 2020. Advies aan de regering uit naam van de voltallige Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid (The better work. The new societal task. The Hague 2020. Advice to the government on behalf of the full Scientific Council for Government Policy).