12 March 2021
Two Upper Sixth-formers from King Edward VI High School for Girls are celebrating after their ground-breaking research paper on the impact of lockdown on teenagers was accepted by the prestigious journal ‘Public Health in Practice’. Keen to stay productive as the pandemic worsened, the pair, Noemi Jester and Premjeet Kang, both 18, decided to study how it was affecting young people’s physical and mental health and began their survey early in the first lockdown last March.
“We’re ecstatic at this amazing news,” said Noemi, “as it means all our hard work over the past year has paid off. We’re particularly pleased that it will appear in an official journal of the Royal Society of Public Health, after we made two sets of revisions following peer review.”
“We targeted our own age-group,” added Premjeet, “and had the unique perspective of being in the demographic we were studying. We were lucky that we began our research so early in the pandemic, as it was some of the first undertaken. We needed volunteers so we emailed everyone we knew who might be interested – from our own school and others in Birmingham – then chose 55 people who fitted our criteria. Once we’d received ethics approval to use them, we sent them the same questionnaire every week for 10 weeks including a pre-study one to compare results from before lockdown and one afterwards.
The questions included details on participants’ physical health: changes in sleep pattern, exercise, appetite, headaches and caffeine and alcohol consumption. The mental health questions looked at levels of screen time, social media use, creativity, the ability to socialise and the levels of conflict and harmony in the family.”
“We processed and analysed the data in several ways,” said Noemi, “and among the overall results we found that 70% of our sample experienced a decrease in physical health: 54% reported an increase in their consumption of unhealthy foods, for example. But 30% found their physical health had improved because they were getting more sleep which resulted in fewer symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Overall, 51% of participants reported that their mental health had worsened, indicating that they had suffered from the decrease in social interaction and lower levels of productivity and motivation. The remaining 49% actually said they experienced better mental health as they had more time for leisure pursuits and doing things they enjoyed.”
The pair have also been collaborating with Birmingham City Council, sharing and discussing their findings and links between their project and the broader study the Council is currently conducting. It all augurs well for the two friends’ future careers: Noemi, from Moseley, who comes from several generations of doctors, aims to study Medicine, while Premjeet, from Edgbaston, hopes to read Psychology.
“We’re extremely proud of Prem and Noemi,” said KEHS Principal Kirsty von Malaisé. “They showed great initiative and dedication in devising this research and carrying it through while also working hard for their A levels, and they thoroughly deserve their success.”
“Although we came up with this project independently, our time in the nurturing, positive environment of KEHS has very much shaped our ambitions,” said Premjeet. “It’s made us keen to look outside and go beyond the curriculum. Doing the survey certainly boosted our own mental health too, as it meant we were constantly busy and engaged, even under lockdown.”