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In a 2021 study, the CDC found that more than one-third of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic.

Credit: Diego Cárdenas

The Penn Population Studies Center hosted a pop-up speaker event on the decline of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event featured researcher Eugenio Proto, a professor of applied economics and econometrics at the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School. Proto's research interests include development and growth as well as behavioral and experimental economics, according to the Population Studies website.

From April 2020 to January 2021, Proto conducted research on the deterioration of mental health. More than 5,000 individuals in the United Kingdom were part of the research, with the majority being adults older than 24.

Proto discussed his findings on how the pandemic affected different population groups. According to his data, women experienced greater mental health deterioration compared to men. In addition, white British men faced less mental deterioration compared to men of other ethnicities.

Proto also discussed the relationship between mental health deterioration and an individual's personality type, finding that people who are high in extroversion were more adversely affected by the pandemic compared to more introverted individuals. 

However, research shows that extroverted individuals eventually found coping mechanisms during the pandemic, which diminished these differences over time.

“I have always been interested in well-being, notably with the pandemic the specific issue more than well-being was mental health,” Proto said with regards to what inspired him to conduct research on mental health deterioration.

Proto's research coincided with the CDC's 2021 finding that more than one-third of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic. The World Health Organization has also reported that the pandemic saw a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression across the globe.

“The research is not much for the people but aimed for the governments because it is something massive that will have a cost in the future, including economic costs,” Proto said.