The coronavirus outbreak is just the latest life-changing disruption for young adults, who are now learning that they may be more vulnerable to the disease than originally expected, USC experts said Wednesday.
“Fast-tracked journal articles published within the last week or so report on similarities and differences among pediatric and adult patients with COVID-19 infection. Most disturbing are the increasing numbers of severe illness and fatalities in the 20- to 44-year-old segment in the U.S.,” said Irving Steinberg, associate professor of clinical pharmacy and pediatrics at the USC School of Pharmacy and the Keck School of Medicine.
Steinberg, who is also an expert in infectious diseases, said the casual attitude of many young people to the global pandemic is at odds with what researchers see.
Early reports emphasized the danger of the coronavirus to at-risk populations such as pregnant women, older individuals and those with underlying health conditions. However, one in five people hospitalized with the infection are 20- to 44-year-olds, according to recent analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of those hospitalized, nearly 12% were admitted to intensive care units, according to the CDC.
“Young adults are not immune to coronavirus,” Steinberg said. “Lower risk should never be confused with no risk.”
Los Angeles County reported the first death of someone under 18 in connection with the coronavirus on Monday, but authorities later said it was a complex case that might have an “alternate explanation.”
Beyond the medical dangers, the pandemic is likely to have longer lasting effects on young people, according to another USC researcher, who believes it may further undermine their faith in existing institutions.
“This [COVID-19] crisis will be one of the formative experiences of most young people’s lives. They are watching how their parents, cities, schools and government act. It’s putting into high relief the inability of large-scale institutions to address these issues,” said Richard Flory, senior director of research and evaluation at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Flory points to youth support for Bernie Sanders and climate activist Greta Thunberg as representative of a new world view of institutional distrust and reliance on family and close friends.
That lack of trust and “hyper-individualism” undermines society’s ability to work together to solve problems, he said.
During the global pandemic, young adults have come under attack for failing to heed pleas and orders for social distancing, with photos of spring break revelers going viral.
A Los Angeles-based national nonprofit is seeking to help encourage physical distancing while still keeping social circles close. HealGrief, with a mission of supporting 18- 25-year-olds suffering the loss of a loved one, has launched the AMF (Actively Moving Forward) app.
The tool is designed to help young people find support and deepen connections through events, webinars and other resources. Users must first register at HealGrief.org/AMFApp to verify and protect the safety of all users.
“Grief support is essential for young adults, ages 18-25. The ability to process grief and adapt to a new normal after a death loss leads to improved grades, higher graduation rates and the ability to maintain strong personal and professional bonds with family, friends and the community at large,” said Fran Solomon, HealGrief’s president and founder.
“Through our new AMF App, we hope to make this support readily accessible to young adults, expanding into the age of 30, especially during this crucial time of self-isolation that for those who are grieving can lead to poor coping skills, addiction, depression and suicidal ideology,” she said.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: