Helsinki GSE Situation Room study: Coronavirus pandemic particularly challenging for higher education students - number of appointments to mental health services is on the rise

Appointments to mental health services have been steadily increasing among both higher education students and other representatives of the same age group since autumn 2020.
Economicum-rakennus Arkadiankadulla. Kuva: Veikko Somerpuro
Economicum building at Arkadiankatu, Helsinki. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

The report published on 16 August 2021 by Helsinki GSE Situation Room titled Koronapandemia ja mielenterveyserot eri sosioekonomisissa ryhmissä (The coronavirus pandemic and mental health in different socioeconomic groups) highlights the effects of the coronavirus from the perspective of mental health services.

In spring 2021, no clear change was observed in public primary health care appointments related to mental health, even though the number has occasionally been higher than the previous year. However, appointments to public mental health services increased considerably more among 15-29 year-olds than among older working-age people (Figure 1, Appointments to mental health services have been steadily increasing among both higher education students and other representatives of the same age group since autumn 2020. Appointments to mental health service providers have also increased among upper secondary students in autumn 2020 and spring 2021.

‘Public discussion has centred, in particular, on concern for a possible decline in the well-being of young adults and those in certain professions. Based on the register data examined now, it appears that there is a reason for this concern,’ says Mika Kortelainen, Professor of Health Economics at the University of Turku and head of the research group. ‘Appointments to mental health services among young people, especially higher education students, as well as the number of diagnoses among certain public sector workers, are clearly on the rise.’

Based on previously published reports, it was observed that people in different professions have been in a very different position during the corona pandemic in terms of exposure to a coronavirus infection. The now-published report also highlights this difference through mental health diagnoses.

‘The results contain some level of uncertainty, as different professions and the people working in them differ from one another in many ways. However, the report gives an indication of an increase in cases in certain, perhaps even surprising fields,’ commented Doctoral Candidate Milla Hägg.

Largest number of mental health-related diagnoses among public sector officials tasked with preparation and supervision

In spring 2021, the share of those given mental health-related diagnoses was the highest among public administration officials in preparation and supervision tasks, more than 10%. The work of this professional group includes decision-making on social security benefits. The number of mental health-related diagnoses and its increase from the previous year were also remarkably high for many working in the service sector, such as salespersons and retailers, and for care sector personnel, such as practical nurses (Figure 2,

The entire report is available in Finnish on the Helsinki GSE website:

Further information:
Mika Kortelainen
+358 50 308 2642
[email protected]

Milla Hägg
+358 400 860 407
[email protected]

Helsinki Graduate School of Economics is a joint teaching and research unit in economics of Aalto University, University of Helsinki and Hanken School of Economics.

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