Coronavirus, young people and their perception of risk

There is no doubt that with the first wave of coronavirus infections extinguished, the way we behave has varied beyond the rules enforced by governments.

While during the first days of the application of the state of alarm, most of the population insisted on the need to prevent, sometimes even exaggerating, nowadays, with the new normal and the return to the streets, the atmosphere is much more relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, that in some cases it can become a problem.

In this article we will talk about the perception of risk in a population particularly exposed to infections: young people.

    The current situation in the face of the pandemic

    Today we are faced with a scenario that we have not yet fully understood: in most places in Spain there are hardly any rules that limit our individual freedoms, but we are still very aware the high risk of a second wave of contagion. .

    In fact, in some places there are already significant regrowths, And that is why certain measures are taken to be followed when we leave the house in general: maintaining the safety distance and in areas like Catalonia, the obligation to wear a mask also in the street, not only in inside and in public transport.

    But one thing is the rules and another is the facts. In general, adults tend to follow these types of health rules easily, but in younger people it is much more common to see violations.

    Of course, it would be totally wrong to think that just being a teenager means taking less action to prevent infection, but in situations that affect all of us around the world, statistics are very important: the average teenager tends to be at greater risk of coronavirus infection than adults.

    Perception of risk among young people

    During the most difficult phase of the first wave of the pandemic, Spain turned out to be one of the countries where containment rules were most respected. However, this does not mean that all citizens have the same predisposition to maintain security measures in what they do on a daily basis.

    For decades, it has been known that the young population, which is in adolescence or early adulthood, is particularly prone to spontaneous risk and in a wide variety of contexts. The implications of this for virus prevention are clear: Although this age group usually resists symptoms of VOCID-19 well or even develops no symptoms, they are still able to transmit the virus..

    This is especially serious considering that adolescents are generally gregarious and in their day to day life it is common to get together in large groups. For example, at leisure on weekends.

      Possible explanations for this phenomenon

      What is the reason for the tendency of the average teenager to adopt reckless behaviors? Several explanations are mixed in this regard.

      From a biopsychological point of view, it is considered that in adolescence the brain’s reward system, the one that participates in how we prioritize our sources of motivation, is not mature enough as if to give too much importance to abstract or long-term goals.

      So, in the adolescent brain, the structure known as the limbic system, which is the part of the brain from which emotional impulses originate, is said to have a greater capacity to direct the attention of young people here and there. being thwarted by other areas of the nervous system capable of putting the needs of the community first.

      However, there is another possible explanation: by the way they tend to socialize, teens tend to pay a lot more attention to what other young people are doing (Or rather, in what other young people are a little older than them) than in what adults do.

      In other words, there is in young people a kind of culture of their own, which is passed down from generation to generation and in which it is very difficult to penetrate from the outside, regardless of the level of science and skills. safety measures based on medical criteria. On our part.

      As coronavirus prevention measures are not innate, but a cultural phenomenon, The “default option” in which adolescent culture finds itself is to ignore this issue.. The same goes for other prevention and safety measures, which usually stem from a mixture of personal experience and attention to what experts in the adult world say.

      In addition, gender also plays an important role in terms of risk management. Many studies associate testosterone production with the tendency to be exposed to risky situations, with a positive correlation between the two. This implies that in general, men are the least concerned about ensuring their safety in virtually all areas of life.

      On the other hand, the peak of testosterone production reaches its peak between adolescence and young adulthood, and decreases significantly from the age of 30 in men and 45 in women.

      The importance of the responsibility of the coronavirus

      Just because teens are statistically more reluctant to be consistent with all measures to prevent contagion does not mean that it is impossible to encourage them to do what is necessary to prevent the spread of viruses.

      A climate of general awareness in which the importance of taking charge of vulnerable people is emphasized you can achieve great things; many will probably be surprised to see that millions of people have turned their backs on the first wave of the pandemic, even if it meant bearing significant economic losses.

      On the other hand, for adolescents who have particular difficulty adapting to the change induced by the appearance of the coronavirus, it should not be forgotten that psychotherapeutic support is a useful and effective resource for improving impulse control, Learn new ways to channel motivation, resolve family conflicts, overcome a bad moment emotionally, etc.

      Are you looking for professional psychological assistance?

      If managing the situations to which the pandemic exposes us is difficult for you and that is why you are looking for psychological support to be able to cope with it, contact us.

      Fr wake up psychologists, A psychotherapy center founded in 2012 and which currently has several offices throughout the CAM, we have a team of professionals with experience in the care of adults, children and adolescents.

      Our good work over the years has enabled us to help more than 8,000 patients and to win, among other things, an award for professional excellence. You can count on us in Madrid, Leganés, Móstoles and Getafe, or through online video call therapy.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Kumar Kar, S .; Verma, N .; And Saxena, SK (2020). Coronavirus infection in children and adolescents. Compilation of public health emergencies, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), pages 71 to 79.
      • Lillo, D. (2020). The data indicates that Spain is the country where containment against the coronavirus has been most reached. Nius. Retrieved from
      • Romer, D. (2012). Risk-taking in adolescents, impulsivity and brain development: implications for prevention. Developmental Psychobiology, 52 (3): pp. 263 – 276.
      • Sapienza, P .; Zingales, L. and Maestripieri, D. (2009). Testosterone affects gender differences in financial risk aversion and career choices. PNAS, 106 (36): pages 15268 to 15273.
      • Steinberg, L. (2008). A social neuroscience perspective on adolescent risk-taking. Developmental Review, 28 (1): pages 78-106.

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