COVID-19 has significant impacts on young peoples’ lives and emotions. Understanding how young people maintain well-being in the face of challenges can inform future mental health intervention development. Here we applied network analysis to well-being data gathered from 2532 young people (12-25 years) residing in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic to identify the structure across well-being and crucially, its central defining features. Gender and age differences in networks were also investigated. Across all participants, items emerged in two clusters: 1) optimism, positive self-perception, and social connectedness, and 2) processing problems and ideas. The two central features of well-being were: “I’ve been dealing with problems well” and “I’ve been thinking clearly”. There were minimal age and gender differences. Our findings suggest that the perception of being able to process problems and ideas efficiently could be a hallmark of well-being, particularly in the face of challenging circumstances. These findings contrast with pre-pandemic studies that point to positive affect as central aspects of well-being networks. Future interventions that encourage problem-solving and mental flexibility could be useful in helping young people maintain well-being during times of stress and uncertainty.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Alison Fang-Wei Wu, Deniz Konac, Laura Riddleston, Taryn Hutchinson, Belinda Platt, Victoria Pile, Jennifer Y.F. Lau