Background Young people in Gwent, Wales, were identified as a group of concern, with elevated Covid-19 case incidence during periods of 2021, sometimes in combination with low testing uptake. It was recognised that approaches to manage the pandemic have been generic for the whole population and not necessarily young-person friendly.
The survey is one element of a wider project which aims to use behavioural insight to inform the development of an effective intervention to support positive behaviours in 16–18 year olds, thus minimising the harms associated with Covid-19. The objectives of the survey were; to develop an understanding around young people’s behaviours in terms of Covid-19 testing practices, as well as self-isolation preparedness and associated challenges.
Methods An online questionnaire was created, piloted and refined. It comprised of a combination of quantitative and qualitative questions. It was distributed to all full-time students at the local further education college through their college App. The responses (n=588) were exported electronically, allowing an analysis to be undertaken using Excel and descriptive statistics to be obtained. A thematic analysis was undertaken for the open-ended questions. Responders were categorised as either 16–18 or 19+.
Results 47% of respondents would take both an LFT and a PCR test if they were symptomatic, followed by 18% who would only take an LFT. This was contrary to guidance at the time, which recommended a PCR test when symptomatic. The main concerns in presenting for testing were entire households being required to self-isolate (40%), followed by friends (24%). 35% stated they had not considered preparing for self-isolation, despite evidence suggesting it can make it less of a challenge. Mental health/well-being were cited as the biggest concerns for individuals self-isolating (40%); challenges highlighted were falling behind on college work and a lack of financial support, this was followed by missing the social aspect of the college environment.
Discussion The insight gathered will inform an intervention to support positive behaviours in young people. This includes strengthening communication to ensure they understand the most up-to-date guidance and where to access this. Financial support schemes and mental well-being provision should be communicated effectively through routes to young people, to increase participation in self-isolation and other control measures moving forward into the endemic phase of Covid-19.
There are limitations to consider, one of which is the response rate (9%), where there could fundamentally different views from those who chose not to respond.
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