Socio-psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Young Adults in Germany

This project was carried out as part of the TechLabs “Digital Shaper Program” in Münster (summer term 2021).

Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted people’s life across the globe and produced a unique set of challenges for both individuals and society as a whole. Navigating these challenges led to the implementation of a wide range of protective measures to preserve public health in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, socio-psychological interactions between individuals and individuals with society experienced a lasting change and had to adapt to the new challenges and restrictions. Our project aims to gain further insights on how young adults in Germany are socio-psychologically impacted by these changes imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. To fulfill this research objective, we utilized a data science and machine learning based approach to identify four statistically significant focus areas. The four focus areas include the compliance with legal Covid-19 measures as well as the reasoning behind compiling or failing to comply with these measures. Furthermore, the perceived political representation and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on political beliefs are analyzed. Our findings can be used to derive improved measures to address the issues of young adults in Germany in context of the Covid-19 pandemic and aim to inspire a more fact-based and engaging public discourse on these issues.

Introduction

Since the end of 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted all areas of people’s everyday lives. In an effort to combat the spread of the virus, governments all over the world have implemented a wide array of measures to protect public health. These measures usually include far-reaching restrictions and thereby impact the foundation of individual life as well as interpersonal relationships between individuals in the context of socio-psychological interactions.

Methodology

To answer the aforementioned questions, we utilized data provided by “The Youth Study of TUI Foundation” in cooperation with the WZB (Berlin Social Science Center). The research for this project was conducted under the lead of Marcus Splittler in September 2020 and questioned 1.011 young adults aged between 16 and 26 about political beliefs and Covid-19 related issues. Participants were recruited on the basis of a representative quota plan and answered the questions through an online questionnaire. The final dataset was provided by the GESIS (Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences).

Results

The previously mentioned meta-analysis led to the identification of four distinct focus areas based on statistical significance. The four focus areas investigate the compliance with Covid-19 measures as well as the impact of Covid-19 on perceived political representation and political beliefs:

Focus Area #1: Perception and compliance with legal Covid-19 measures

Looking at first descriptive results the data shows that young Germans assess the measures taken so far to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in Germany as appropriate. However, we see no linear relationship between the assessment of the measures and participants’ age.

Focus Area #2: Reasons to follow or disregard legal Covid-19 measures

Looking at the reasons why young Germans aim to follow the measurements, we see that the two strongest reasons are to protect their own health and the health of others. These two variables, namely the protection of one’s own health and the health of others, also have a fairly strong correlation with r = .83 and a p-value of .000 as well as the most significant PPS across all features (.94 PPS and .95 PPS respectively). In addition to this, the degree of compliance with legal Covid-19 measures is also a significant predictor for giving the aforementioned arguments as reasons for following the measures with PPS scores of .66 and .63.

Fig. 1: Visual insights into (1) perception and compliance with legal Covid-19 measures and (2) reasons to follow these measures.

Focus Area #3: Perceived political representation in context of the Covid-19 pandemic

The question of whether young people feel they have sufficient political representation was examined. It becomes clear that most young people do not feel that they are being addressed enough, since it is mainly the interests of the older generation that receive attention.

Focus Area #4: Political beliefs and future prospects in context of the Covid-19 pandemic

During the first Covid-19 wave, most young adults in Germany did not fear any impact, on future prospects in general, yet. Rather, the data shows that they saw the situation as an opportunity for globalization, digitalization as well as aspects to stop climate change to come into sharper focus and be driven forward. Only the perceptions on effects on immigration and emigration and on the political parties rejecting the EU were varied as well as fears that this would be influenced by Covid-19. Further data analysis indicates that participants tend to take an either optimistic or pessimistic stance on these issues in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that individuals who perceive threats or opportunities in one topic area are more likely to extrapolate this assessment across all topic areas.

Fig. 2: Visual insights into political beliefs and future prospects of young German adults during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Conclusion

The TUI Foundation’s youth study deals with the psychosocial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on young Germans and was used as a foundation for our data analysis. Relationships between features were identified based on correlation and regression algorithms and led to the identification of four focus areas. In general, a rather optimistic assessment of the future can be seen across young citizens, for example in the trend development of globalization and digitalization. However, most young citizens do not feel sufficiently represented politically. Nevertheless, this lack of representation does not indicate that the specified measures are being strictly pursued. The majority of all young German citizens follow the legal Covid-19 measures, which can be attributed to the protection of their own and their general health. This results in a rather optimistic psychosocial basic attitude for the future.

The team

David Kösters Data Science: Python

Mentor

Christian Porschen

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