7.1 General context
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Main trends in the health conditions of young people
Health of children and young people
In Germany, the health of children and young people and the health care available to them can be rated good to very good. These were the findings from parent surveys and studies of children and young people carried out by the Robert Koch Institute (Robert-Koch-Institut) as part of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitssurvey, KiGGS). However, there is a noticeable shift away from acute and towards chronic diseases and psychological disorders. The chances of enjoying a life free from disease and health problems are also spread unequally. In particular, children from socially disadvantaged families are exposed to higher health risks. These can be caused by family lifestyle and living conditions. For example, children and young people from disadvantaged families are affected more than average by traffic accidents, various diseases, being overweight and psychological disorders.
Representative studies also show that there are significant problems in Germany as a result of people being overweight and inactive on the one hand, and suffering from eating disorders and malnutrition on the other, as well as a lack of exercise. This increases the risk that children and young people in particular will also suffer from health problems.
Latest health surveys and studies
Statistics from the Federal Statistics Office
The Federal Statistics Office (Statistisches Bundesamt) regularly collects health data in Germany. The following surveys are of interest with respect to children and young people: Accidents, violence and suicide among children and young people (Unfälle, Gewalt und Selbstverletzungen bei Kindern und Jugendlichen). In the ten-year period between 2010 and 2019, there was a clear decline in the number of deaths caused by injury among children and young people (aged 1-19).
However, accident-related injuries are one of the biggest health hazards for children and young people in Germany and the most frequent cause of death for children from the age of one. In its statistics on causes of death, the Federal Statistics Office shows that over 60% of fatal accidents involving children occur in the home or during leisure time. Around 35% occur in road traffic and less than 5% in places such as child day-care facilities, schools, or they are unknown.
When asked to assess their health status, 90% of 16 to 25-year-olds rate theirs as very good to good.
German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitssurvey, KiGGS)
In 1998, the Robert Koch Institute (Robert Koch-Institut, RKI) began devising and testing a German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitssurvey, KiGGS) with the support of national and international experts.
The first phase of the survey (KiGGS-Basiserhebung) ran from 2003 to 2006 and involved questionnaires and analyses. The interviewees were later contacted again for questioning in later survey phases, following a longitudinal approach. The first follow-up survey, known as KiGGS Wave 1 (KiGGS Welle 1), commenced in 2009 and ended in 2012. During this phase, most information was gathered in telephone interviews.
The second follow-up, KiGGS Wave 2 (KiGGS Welle 2), started in September 2014 and, like the first basic phase, involved questionnaires, analyses and tests. A variety of survey instruments as well as the process itself were verified for their effectiveness in a pre-test. KiGGS Welle 2 ended in August 2017. Findings are published on the Robert Koch Institute website.
Funding for this study, which remains one of a kind both in Germany and abroad, was provided by the Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, BMG), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) and the Robert Koch Institute (Robert Koch-Institut, RKI). In-depth sub-studies were financed by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, BMEL), the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety) (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit, BMU) and the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ).
Information from the health monitoring programme is regularly included in the publications of the Federal Health Reports (Gesundheitsberichterstattung, GBE) at the Robert Koch Institute. The collected health monitoring data and other sources of information create a comprehensive data and information base for the health sciences and health policy-making in Germany.
Child and Youth Reports
According to Section 84 of Book VIII of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB VIII), the federal government is obliged to submit a Child and Youth Report to the German parliament (Bundestag) and Federal Council (Bundesrat) in each parliamentary term and to make a statement on this report. An independent commission of experts is appointed to draft these reports.
The 15th Child and Youth Report (Kinder- und Jugendbericht, KJB) from 2017, entitled “Between freedom, family, all-day school and virtual worlds – Personality development and education for young people” (Zwischen Freiräumen, Familie, Ganztagsschule und virtuellen Welten – Persönlichkeitsentwicklung und Bildungsanspruch im Jugendalter), provides a picture of the realities and lives of adolescents and young adults. It examines the circumstances under which young people are growing up, how they are influenced by digitalisation, demographic development and globalisation, and analyses the issues typically faced by this target group. It also covers the issue of young people’s health.
The 16th Child and Youth Report from 2020 focuses on "Supporting democracy education for children and young people" (Förderung demokratischer Bildung im Kindes- und Jugendalter). It is the first Child and Youth Report to extensively and systematically examine political education during childhood and adolescence and ask how young people can be encouraged and empowered to participate in democratic processes. The 600+-page report describes the growing challenges for democracy and political education and offers a broad and systematic overview of the social spaces in which young people experience political education.
An excursus in the 16th Child and Youth Report discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for young people. The report analyses not only the challenges but also the learning opportunities for political education that arise from the pandemic. The report's commission of experts believes the epidemiological crisis presents numerous opportunities to discuss COVID-related problems and challenges, to gear political education programmes towards these issues and to make systematic use of related educational opportunities. It raises questions that could be discussed in the context of political education, for example: Which areas of the health system should be organised on the open market and which should not? Could the emergence of the virus be linked to humans’ over-exploitation of natural resources? To what extent are globalisation and the spread of the virus connected? The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to learn about important topics in political education.
The 17th Child and Youth Report, drafting of which commenced in June 2022, is a general report on the living conditions of children, adolescents and young adults as well as on child and youth welfare services. It will also place a focus on the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report is scheduled for publication in 2024.
The 2018 PISA study contains a lot of data on the well-being of school pupils in Germany. For example, it found that 73% of school pupils are satisfied or very satisfied with life (OECD comparison: 71%). The study also says that only 3% of school pupils do not engage in any physical activity outside of school (OECD comparison: 7%).
Compared to other age groups, school-age children are less likely to develop severe illness from COVID-19. However, few people are as severely impacted by the political responses to the pandemic as children – with far-reaching implications for their learning outcomes and for their personal development. Survey findings from OECD countries show that countries with well-functioning school systems have been more successful at guaranteeing face-to-face lessons. These schools typically have high levels of responsibility and flexibility at the local level. They are better than others at deploying resources where they are most needed. School children in Germany spent half as much time doing school work during the pandemic than they did before. Passive screen time, on the other hand, increased significantly.
Analysis of child and youth medical care
An epidemiological study of paediatric care in Germany in 2015/2016 by the German Academy of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (Deutsche Akademie für Kinder- und Jugendmedizin e.V., DAKJ) showed that there are manifest and potential gaps and structural problems in the health care landscape. The collected findings can help improve paediatric and youth medical care and align it to current developments so that good medical care can also be guaranteed in the future.
For the past 50 years, the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V., DGE) has published a Nutrition Report every four years on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, BMEL), providing important information for nutrition and health policy-making. Summaries of the nutrition reportsare available. The German Nutrition Society’s 14th Nutrition Report from 2020 contains the following sections:
- Nutrition situation in Germany
- Nutrition situation in hospitals and nursing homes – evaluation of the nutritionDay data for Germany
- Study to collect data on breastfeeding and infant nutrition in Germany – SuSe II
- Vegetarian diet among children and adolescents in Germany – VeChi-Youth-Studie
- Prevention of chronic diet-related diseases
The DGE’s 14th Nutrition Report continues analyses of food consumption trends and the development of overweight and obesity in Germany. The report presents and compares strategies to reduce sugar, unsaturated fatty acids and salt in processed foods and the results of food monitoring in Germany, France and Great Britain and on a European level.
On behalf of the BMEL, the opinion research institute forsa asked around 1,000 German citizens aged 14 and above about their eating and shopping habits in telephone interviews carried out in January and February 2021. The findings were published in the BMEL Nutrition Report (BMEL-Ernährungsbericht 2021). To mention just one result, the report found that interest in cooking among younger people has increased significantly, with 86 percent of 14- to 29-year-old respondents saying they enjoy cooking, compared to 72 percent in 2020.
Children and Youth Sports Report
In October 2020, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation (Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung) published the Fourth Children and Youth Sport Report (Vierter Kinder- und Jugendsportbericht, which has presented the current situation in children's and youth sport and recommended action plans for politics, associations, clubs and schools since 2003. The report examines such topics as changes in children's and youth sports, and physical activity and sport for children up to the age of twelve. The Fourth Children and Youth Sport Report focuses on performance, health and society. It addresses current issues such as the positive impact of sport on children with chronic diseases, or the concept of physical literacy to promote physical exercise among children, a holistic approach which embraces participation, motor skills, as well as motivation and self-efficacy.
Drug affinity study
Once a year, the Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung, BZfGA) carries out a 'drug affinity study' on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesgesundheitsministerium). The results of the last study last study were published in October 2019. According to the study, the federal government's drug and addiction prevention measures are successful. It says that young people are smoking less, drinking less alcohol and taking fewer drugs, but binge drinking and cannabis consumption are still a problem.
Evaluation of the National Action Plan IN FORM
In 2008, the National Action Plan IN FORM (Nationaler Aktionsplan IN FORM) was adopted with the aim of reducing malnutrition, increasing activity levels and reducing the number of overweight people to minimise the associated diseases. The IN FORM – German national initiative to promote healthy diets and physical activity (IN FORM – Deutschlands Initiative für gesunde Ernährung und mehr Bewegung) brought a lot of momentum to the promotion of physical activity. The push by the Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, BMG) resulted in physical activity and the promotion of physical activity being integrated into prevention and health promotion work, rehabilitation, care and therapy even after project funding ended.
Following this, the Faculty of Health Sciences at Bielefeld University (Fakultät für Geisteswissenschaften der Universität Bielefeld) in cooperation with the German Sport University Cologne (Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln, DSHS) was tasked by BMG to evaluate the development of structures to promote physical activity and to identify possible courses of action. The Ministry wanted to know how well the promotion of physical activity has been structurally integrated in various fields in Germany and where gaps remain or repetition has arisen. The focus was on health prevention/promotion work, rehabilitation, care and therapy.
The National Action Plan was evaluated between April 2017 and October 2018 and the final report was published in October 2019. The results are available on the IN FORM website.
Other representative studies
The Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung, BZgA) has carried out regular representative surveys on the subjects of school, health, vaccinations and hygiene, health equity and alcohol, tobacco and drug consumption since the 1970s. It has also prepared prevention-relevant databases on sex education and AIDS.
Child health promotion initiatives
The findings of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitssurvey, KiGGS) carried out by theRobert Koch Institute (Robert-Koch-Institute, RKI) are a starting point for the initiatives of the Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesgesundheitsministerium) which aim to promote children’s health and improve medical care. For example, they are an important basis on which statutory regulations for the paediatric check-up programme (Act to strengthen health promotion and prevention (Präventionsgesetz)) are redrafted.
Medical and health science research carried out by the federal government also focuses on promoting and preserving health and improving medical care. A special funding priority of the Federal Ministry of Health also targets projects designed to further improve health care and the health of children and adolescents. There are other specific funding priorities, such as initiatives to improve addiction prevention.
In the priority area "Promoting children’s health”, the Federal Ministry of Health is currently funding projects that address the following issues:
- Improving the care of children and young people with mental illnesses
- Improving the protection of children in medicine, and
- Preventing overweight and obesity in children
As part of the federal government's Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie), altogether 27 activities are being carried out in the area of “health”. One of these measures is a dialogue with experts about strengthening prevention and health promotion among adolescents. This dialogue is conducted by the Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit) and the Federal Ministries of Labour and Social Affairs, Education and Research, Food and Agriculture and for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerien für Arbeit und Soziales, für Bildung und Forschung, für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft sowie für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend). The exchange allows stakeholders from science, industry and politics to collaborate across all age groups, target groups and subjects to jointly promote young people’s health. One important milestone in these networking activities is the “Guide to a common understanding of health promotion and prevention among children and adolescents in Germany" (Wegeweiser zum gemeinsamen Verständnis von Gesundheitsförderung und Prävention bei Kindern und Jugendlichen in Deutschland), which was jointly adopted by the participating organisations and representatives of the participating bodies. The guide defines the key considerations and tasks of the experts in the context of the process.
Active child protection through early prevention and reliable networks
In its role as guardian, the state must ensure that parents assume their responsibility for the health and well-being of their children. The federal states (Bundesländer) and local authorities are primarily responsible for ensuring the welfare and protection of children. In the fight against child neglect and abuse, key instruments are the outreach activities of child and youth services and the public health service and systematic support of families in difficult circumstances.
The Child and Youth Services Act (Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz) (Book VIII of the Social Code) sets out the protection mandate, in particular, of the youth welfare office and local authorities if a child’s welfare is endangered. To enforce the right to a sound upbringing and parental responsibility, youth services are expected, in particular, to
- support young people in their personal and social development and help prevent or eliminate disadvantages,
- provide advice and assistance to parents and other persons having parental powers,
- protect children and young persons from harm to their welfare,
- help maintain or create positive living conditions and a favourable environment for young people and their families.
The Early Prevention in Childhood programme with services for parents from pregnancy onwards and families with children under three was first enshrined in law with the Federal Child Protection Act (Bundeskinderschutzgesetz, BKiSchG) on 1 January 2012. The BKiSchG regulates preventive and active child protection in Germany. At its core is the Act on Cooperation and Information in Child Protection (Gesetz zur Kooperation und Information im Kinderschutz, KKG). Designed to protect the well-being and to promote the development of children, it is made up mainly of regulations for relevant stakeholders involved in early prevention, for example professionals from child and youth services, the social services, education and health services. In this context, it is paramount that the activities of child and youth services are coordinated with the health services, pregnancy counselling, early years education and also programmes to secure basic material needs.
The Early Prevention programme offers services to parents-to-be and families with infants and young children. Risks should be identified during pregnancy and especially up to the age of four, so that families are offered needs-based support services.
The federal states (Länder) and local authorities decide how they approach parents to give them information and advice on local support services. This could be done by the health services or youth welfare services, for example. All key agents of child protection, such as youth offices, schools, health authorities, hospitals, pregnancy counselling centres, doctors and the police are brought together in one early prevention network (Netzwerk Frühe Hilfen) to ensure that support services offered to families upon the birth of a child are well coordinated.
The federal government supports the initiatives of the Länder and local authorities, for example, through the federal foundation for early prevention (Bundesstiftung Frühe Hilfen). Since 1 January 2018, the federal foundation for early prevention has ensured that the structures and services developed and successfully established by the early prevention initiative (Bundesinitiative Frühe Hilfen) will be supported in the long term. Specifically, it will expand psychosocial support services for families with children under the age of three.
Since its foundation in 2007, the National Centre on Early Prevention in Childhood (Nationale Zentrum Frühe Hilfen, NZFH) has been tasked with various roles to support the development of early prevention measures in Germany. It does so through scientific research, quality development measures, discussions with intervention stakeholders from federal, state and local levels, and through public relations work, among other things.
The child protection guidelines (Kinderschutzleitlinie, long version, PDF, 6.55 MB) published in February 2019 by the Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Wissenschaftlichen Medizinischen Fachgesellschaften e.V., AWMF) are the first evidence-based guidelines of this kind to be developed jointly by relevant professional bodies and organisations.
For over 20 years, 120 German health care organisations have participated in a cooperation network tasked with developing the national health target process (nationaler Gesundheitszieleprozess). Its members include policymakers at federal, state and community level, self-governing organisations, industry associations, patient and self-help organisations and scientific institutions.
The stated aims are:
- to improve children and young people’s life skills
- to reduce stress/negative influences on children, young people and families
- to promote physical activity among children and young people
- to reduce malnutrition and promote healthy eating in families
- to optimise health-promoting conditions and structures in childcare facilities, schools, families/environment
- Raise awareness among child and youth services stakeholders with the aim of establishing health promotion as a professional standard in child and youth services
- Ban food advertisements targeted at children and product placement around children's television programmes
- Include life skills in the interdisciplinary training of care workers and teachers and develop these on an ongoing basis to keep up with developments and quality standards
- Childcare facilities will implement measures to promote workplace health
- Childcare facilities will offer children at least two free meals a day
- Encourage children and young people’s natural enjoyment of physical exercise as part of physical education
- Include practical and theoretical education on nutrition in existing school subjects
- Remove drink vending machines and replace with drinking water dispensers
- Develop setting- and subject-specific quality assurance tools
Equity in health
The call for health equity – especially for socially disadvantaged children and adolescents – is an important subject that features heavily in discussions on health policy in Germany. Studies show that social status influences chances of growing up healthily: the lower the social status, the higher the risk of poorer health. In Germany, opportunities for growing up healthily are unequally distributed, as also shown by the Robert Koch Institute (Robert Koch-Institut, RKI) in the KiGGS Wave 2 study (KiGGS). Although most children and adolescents grow up healthily, 15 to 20 percent have significantly poorer health. They often live under difficult social circumstances, are more exposed to risk factors and have fewer coping mechanisms.
Socially determined inequalities in health are present in all European countries. This is why the Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung, BZgA) is collaborating with national and international partners in two projects (Equity in Health and Health Inequalities), each of which aims to promote measures and strategies to reduce health inequalities, share expertise and identify and disseminate examples of good practice. The German Collaborative Network for Equity in Health (Kooperationsverbund Gesundheitliche Chancengleichheit) has 74 member organisations.
An overview of target groups:
- Especially young and large families
- Single-parent families
- Families with a migration background
- Families with health burdens (e.g. parents with mental problems or addictions)
- Socially isolated families
Particular attention should be paid to transitional phases:
- Phase around pregnancy
- Starting nursery school
- Between nursery school and primary school
- Between primary and second school
- Deciding on a career and starting work
Such phases present opportunities for successful personal development but also risks of failure, which can have a correspondingly positive or negative impact on health. All families face such challenges, but disadvantaged families with limited resources have to overcome additional hurdles.
After the German Act to strengthen health promotion and prevention (Präventionsgesetz) came into force in 2015, the Collaborative Network set up health equity coordination centres (Koordinierungsstellen Gesundheitliche Chancengleichheit) on a federal level across the country. Their task is to stimulate dialogue and collaboration between stakeholders on a federal, state and municipal level, identify and disseminate good practice projects and thus promote quality development. They support and advise local authorities as part of the partner process “Health for all”.
Drawing on experience from good practice projects, the Collaborative Network has compiled general recommendations for action and implementation strategies to improve the health of children and young people in difficult social situations, but also for special life phases and periods of transition. The twelve good practice criteria devised by the Collaborative Network’s task force can be used as a quality guideline to align services to the needs of target groups. The recommendations for action are implemented in the context of the local partner process "Health for all" (Gesundheit für alle).
In the mid-2000s, certain criteria and processes were introduced to develop and safeguard the quality of health promotion activities. This came in response to calls from the field and financial backers to be able to better identify and promote effective concepts. The German Collaborative Network for Equity in Health(Kooperationsverbund Gesundheitliche Chancengleichheit) lists participation as one of its 12 good practices. The Collaborative Network’s website presents good practice projects that encourage children and young people to participate in health promotion activities.
Children and young people in the COVID-19 pandemic
Young people can also catch and become ill with COVID-19. Based on the latest research, however, it is assumed that children develop less severe symptoms than adults. According to the German government, severe COVID-19 is more likely in children with serious pre-existing medical conditions. Although children become ill more rarely, parents can protect them and prevent infection by taking various precautions, for example by following the “AHA” rules: maintaining a distance, paying attention to hygiene, and wearing a mask.
Apart from the health risks associated with COVID-19, young people are also affected on multiple levels by the political measures and consequences of the pandemic both socially and individually. Contact restrictions have not only impacted their social life experiences, the pandemic has also had psychological and physical consequences. Studies show that disadvantaged children are especially hard hit by the burdens of the pandemic.
In its studies JuCo (Experiences and Perspectives of Young People During the COVID-19 Pandemic) and KiCo (Experiences and Perspectives of Parents and Their Children During Lockdown), the research network "Childhood – Youth – Family in the COVID-19 Crisis" (Kindheit – Jugend – Familie in der Corona-Zeit) has made it clear that the COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on young people and their families. Among other things, children and young people are affected by lack of exercise, isolation and fears about the future.
Physical exercise and diet
One year into the pandemic, many children and young people have become used to having little physical exercise. In May 2021, the German Children’s Fund (Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk) published a Forsa survey, according to which 90% of interviewed children said they missed physical activity and sports during the pandemic. In some cases, school sports and club sports had stopped completely. In June 2021, a study carried by the Technical University of Munich (Technische Universität München) concluded that children had exercised 40% less since the start of the pandemic compared to the years before. Rates of weight gain had also increased. It was found, for example, that children from families with little exposure to education were 2.5 times more likely to gain weight during the pandemic than children from more privileged backgrounds. Different trends in the various population groups also suggest that social inequalities in health opportunities have intensified.
With regard to the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people, the COPSY study conducted by the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf (COPSY-Studie des Universitätsklinikums Hamburg-Eppendorf, UKE, 2021) showed that almost every third child in Germany had mental health issues almost one year after the start of the COVID crisis – pre-pandemic, every fifth child suffered from mental health problems. It observed more frequent cases of anxiety and signs of depression. This was particularly true of young people who receive less support from their parents. On 8 February 2021, 180 psychologists, child and youth psychotherapists and psychiatrists wrote an open letter to the federal government. They also reported a clear increase in stress levels in children and young people and difficulties accessing psychological support.
The DAK Prevention Radar 2020 (DAK Präventionsradar 2020) also confirms a decline in general life satisfaction levels among school children compared to before the pandemic. Satisfaction with life decreased by an average of 21%. Moreover, 45% of respondents reported feeling stressed often or very often.
Data from the health insurance fund KKH Kaufmännische Krankenkasse for the first six months of 2020 indicates that mental illness diagnoses during the COVID-19 crisis will continue to increase since the number of children and young people affected by all the listed mental disorders already exceeds the half-year average for 2019.
A study of over 10,000 children and young people by the German Association of Psychotherapists (Bundesverband der Vertragspsychotherapeut(inn)en) shows higher levels of anxiety, tension in the home environment, domestic violence and health-endangering behaviour. Behavioural problems are in evidence in all age groups. Difficulty coping with stress is observed especially in young children, school children and adolescents. The latest study by the German Youth Institute (Deutsches Jugendinstitut, DJI) entitled “Being a Child in Times of Corona" (Kind sein in Zeiten von Corona) also concludes that children's well-being is more dependent on the atmosphere in the home during the crisis than is usually the case.
The 2020 Police Crime Statistics (Polizeiliche Kriminalstatistik (PKS) 2020) show that violence against children increased in the course of the pandemic in 2020. The evaluation of the Police Crime Statistics (PKS) for the whole of 2020 reveals that the abuse of children increased by 10% compared to the previous year, with approx. 5,000 cases recorded. Higher parental stress, job loss and the younger age of parents and children are factors that contribute to violence in the family.
An increase in the distribution, purchase, possession and production of images of sexual abuse, or child pornography, has also been observed. It is becoming evident that increased screen time correlates with increased online violence. Violence in the digital space is also increasing among young people. A study by the health insurance fund Techniker Krankenkasse clearly shows that the shift to online teaching in schools and pandemic-related contact restrictions have increased rates of cyberbullying.
Research on the lives of young people during COVID-19 pandemic
JuCo and KiCo: surveys of young people and parents during the COVID-19 pandemic
To contain the spread of COVID-19, far-reaching restrictions were imposed. These have changed life everywhere, but even the gradual easing of regulations cannot hide the fact that the lives of young people and families as well as senior citizens have been especially severely impacted and restricted. Many also have the impression that decisions about political measures and strategies and assessments of different interests do not take sufficient account of the perspectives of children, young people and parents.
The research network Childhood – Youth – Family During COVID-19 (Kindheit – Jugend – Familie in der Corona-Zeit) carried out the JuCo study on young people’s experiences and perspectives during COVID-19 and the KiCo study on the experiences and perspectives of parents and their children under the lockdown restrictions. The network is a collaboration between the University of Hildesheim’s Department of Social and Organisational Education (Institut für Sozialpädagogik und Erwachsenenbildung an der Stiftung Universität Hildesheim) and the University of Frankfurt’s Institute of Social Pedagogy and Adult Education (Institut für Sozialpädagogik und Erwachsenenbildung an der Universität Frankfurt) together with the University of Bielefeld.
Link to the JuCo and KiCo research results
Shell youth study 2021
In a special preliminary evaluation of the study “Young Germans 2021" (Junge Deutsche 2021), youth researchers show how young people are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the crisis, negative headlines and pictures of party excesses have repeatedly circulated in the media. Young people are accused of antisocial behaviour. In general, the study’s findings refute the claims made in some media reports. The study makes it clear that sweeping statements about all young people are completely unjustified.
Link to the special evaluation
Youth study by the TUI foundation (TUI Stiftung): Young Germany during COVID-19 (Junges Deutschland in Zeiten von Corona)
To assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the attitudes of young Germans, a sample of young people in Germany were interviewed in autumn 2020. The survey was carried out to update research findings so far. The TUI foundation has been conducting the "Young Europe" study since 2017. It aims to shed light on the lifeworld, identity and political attitudes of young people in Europe.
Link to the TUI foundation report
SINUS youth study 2020: Impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the attitudes and lifestyles of young people
The SINUS Institute has been presenting an empirical review of the sociocultural conditions of young people with its study series "How do young people tick?” every four years since 2008. Due to the current situation, the study has been extended to include an additional survey and a special section on the COVID-19 crisis. The study looks at how young people perceive the fundamental changes that have taken place in the crisis and it examines how this exceptional situation has influenced their view of the future, political interests and health behaviour.
Link to the findings of the SINUS youth study
COPSY study: Life quality and mental health of children and adolescents
The longitudinal COPSY study investigates the impact and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of children and adolescents in Germany. The study is conducted by the research unit Child Public Health at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf). Another aim of the study is to identify factors that benefit the mental health of children and adolescents during the crisis. The study will recommend strategies to develop prevention and intervention approaches in order to promote the mental health of children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Link to the COPSY study on the website of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf
DJI survey "Growing up in Germany: Everyday Worlds” (Aufwachsen in Deutschland: Alltagswelten – AID:A)
With its survey "Growing Up in Germany: Everyday Worlds", the German Youth Institute (Deutsches Jugendinstitut, DJI) provides comprehensive information about the living situations and experiences of children, adolescents, young adults and their parents before and during the pandemic. Conducted throughout the country, these representative interviews offer insights into changes in lifestyles and living situations and focus on the different dimensions of the well-being of young people and their families in different everyday contexts.
Link to the findings and analyses of DJI research
Training prospects during the COVID-19 crisis
How do young people feel at the start of the new training year? Bertelsmann Stiftung asks why young people are unsure about starting a training programme despite the popularity of apprenticeships.
Link to the Bertelsmann survey
Young people in Brandenburg 2020: Impacts of the COVID-19 crisis
The federal state of Brandenburg has collected information about the life situation, values and attitudes of young people at periodic intervals for 30 years. In 2020, the University of Potsdam’s Institute for Applied Family, Childhood and Youth Research (Institut für angewandte Familien-, Kindheits- und Jugendforschung e.V.) conducted a special study on the impacts of the pandemic on the lives of young people.
Link to the special study by IFK
The results of other current studies and information on research projects can be found on the professional youth workers’ website (Fachkräfteportal der Kinder- und Jugendhilfe).
Measures for children and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic
Due to the lockdown restrictions and the effect the COVID-19 crisis has had on young people, the federal government has adopted a raft of measures. These include:
- Financial support for families, such as compensation under the Infection Protection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz), threefold increase in the number of paid days off to care for sick children, a special child bonus and easier access to child supplement.
- Increase in counselling, support and information services for children and young people, families and youth work professionals. Special mention should be made of the newly launched website of the Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung) “Staying emotionally stable" ("Psychisch stabil bleiben"), which raises awareness of the subject of psychological stress. Other information can be found at http://www.fruehehilfen.de and https://www.elternsein.info/.
- The Post-Covid Action Programme for Children and Young People 2021 and 2022 (Aufholen nach Corona für Kinder und Jugendliche 2021 und 2022) is supporting young people with a two billion euro action programme. The programme aims, in particular, to help children catch up with schooling missed during the pandemic, but it also promotes recreational activities and strengthens children and young people and their families. The sum of 50 million euros, for example, has been earmarked to expand the Early Prevention programme (Frühe Hilfen). The German Sports Youth (Deutsche Sportjugend) will also increase its activities. The programme will also fund early childhood education, additional recreational and holiday activities as well as support services for children, young people and their families in their everyday life.
- The physical exercise campaign of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs (Bundesfamilienministerium) and German Sports Youth (Deutsche Sportjugend). This campaign addresses all 90,000 sports clubs and associations with the aim of offering children and young people greater opportunities for low-threshold, free sports and physical exercise. The federal government is investing a total of over two million euros this year and in the coming year.