Surviving COVID: The impact of the pandemic on young people A short film exploring the impact on children and young people who are caring or grieving for friends and relatives who’ve become seriously ill from COVID-19

29 January 2021

About 2 mins to read

The Health Foundation supported a Channel 4 documentary, Surviving COVID, to enhance understanding of the impact of COVID-19.

This film, How is COVID-19 affecting young people?, shines a light on how young people have been affected, directly and indirectly, by the pandemic. It explores experiences of caring for a loved one who is seriously ill with COVID-19 and the impact of losing a parent to the virus.

As a result of measures put in place to control COVID-19, young people are disproportionately facing economic and social challenges, such as access to good quality work and seeing their friends and family, that threaten their long-term health and wellbeing.

Lockdowns during the pandemic have forced many people to come to terms with a vastly different way of life, while also grappling with the suffering created by the pandemic in terms of health and the economic crisis.

However, for some young people the pandemic will also cast a more personal shadow over the rest of their lives. While young people are unlikely to be seriously ill from COVID-19, some will have had the worry of a seriously ill parent or they may have lost loved ones. As a result, they may have taken on caring responsibilities for a parent or sibling. For some, this caring role may continue for years to come. All these things impact on young people’s health and wellbeing, both now and in the future.

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Please note that this film contains scenes that viewers may find upsetting.

Amina: Majidah, I have to do cooking quickly.

Amina: He's a very nice person because he's a caring dad Sometimes he's grumpy and we like that part of him because we laugh about it

Sama’s family (singing): # Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you #

Kalisha: The teachers were telling us about the virus. They said that sometimes it kills people, sometimes it, um, some people survive from it.

Interviewer: How long has your dad been in hospital for?

Kalisha: Since March. Two months and some weeks.

Martina Kane: Even in the midst of this incredibly challenging year, young people really have, you know, stepped up in a huge way. Lots of them are taking on caring responsibilities. Taking responsibilities around cleaning, around caring for younger siblings, and that's a real change in a dynamic in a family.

Kalisha: I have to try and help my sisters study, a lot. It's been very hard because they, um, they miss my dad, too. My littlest sister, she always cries in the night and says she misses Daddy, she misses Daddy. And then my second sister, she always sleeps with my mum because she's always scared.

Martina Kane: In terms of their education, a huge number of young people are still sort of being taken out of classrooms whilst they need to isolate. Because of the way the brain develops, social contact with peers is incredibly important. For young people to suddenly not see their friends is a huge, huge change. The world really turned upside down for a lot of them, and they described feeling incredibly lonely. A lot of them talked about how digital communication just isn't the same.

Interviewer: Have you been able to see your dad at all in hospital?

Kalisha: No, but we do do a video call so we can say hello to him. I feel happy that I get to see him but then I feel sad because it sometimes makes my mum cry so then I cry as well.

Amina: Hello, we hope you can hear us. Please come back. Please come back.

Kalisha: Most of the time I actually think about my dad but sometimes I have to try and put it out of my mind because it upsets me a lot.

Martina Kane: The adolescent age group, secondary school and right up to really early adulthood is really crucial. We've seen a lot of people of all sorts of generations being affected, having their mental health affected.

David: They said he had a cardiac arrest and I was really like broken from that, and really scared.

Deji: Being 18, I just turned 18 in December. I was expecting 2020 to be like, me being 18, this whole time I would have been having the time of my life and having my experiences. But I just have to live this life and see exactly what happens and be strong because it is a really tough time.

Martina Kane: Lots of young people were expressing really deep concerns about whether or not there is going to be a future out there for them. A lot of them are beginning to feel a sense of hopelessness, that, you know, what is there for me? Are there going to be jobs? COVID has affected all areas of life and things like lockdown, access to education, cancelling of exams, has had a huge impact. So the Health Foundation has been working with young people between 12 and 24 , really trying to look at how you can really set them off on a path that means they they have a healthy future. So if you can really get young people into a secure sort of stable foundation then that that will leave them in the best position to be able to thrive throughout the rest of their adulthood.

While young people are less likely to suffer the worst symptoms of COVID-19, the disease will undoubtedly have a long-standing impact on many of their lives.
Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive, the Health Foundation

About the documentary and short film series

The Health Foundation supported a Channel 4 documentary, Surviving COVID, to enhance understanding of the impact of the pandemic.

This series of four short videos delves further into the issues raised by the documentary. They are drawn from footage captured by the filmmakers Sandpaper Films as part of Surviving COVID, along with additional perspectives and experiences. The series aims to highlight the different ways that COVID-19 has affected people, their families, health care workers and the health system.


With thanks to everyone who shared their deeply personal experiences as part of Surviving COVID.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this video, find details of organisations that can offer help and support on the Channel 4 website:

Further reading


Surviving COVID


Surviving COVID is a Channel 4 documentary, and series of short films, supported by the Health...


Responding to COVID-19


How the Health Foundation is supporting the UK's health and care system to deal with current...


Surviving COVID: COVID-19 and the long road to recovery


This film explores the complex care needs of people who have been severely ill with COVID-19, many...


COVID-19 impact inquiry


This UK-wide inquiry explored the relationship between the pandemic and people's health and health...

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