Uncertainty, Empathy, and Hope: What Young People in Asia-Pacific Feel Amid the Pandemic

It turns out that young people in the region are more hopeful than their counterparts in other parts of the world.
April 23, 2020, 6:53am
youth coronavirus asia australia

Asia was the first to be hit by the novel coronavirus, an early respondent to what has become a full-blown pandemic. As the world grapples with the outbreak in its various stages, some parts of the region offer a glimpse into the future for how the deadly contagion might develop, how it can be contained, and how people adjust to the new normal. One of the best ways to gauge this is by talking to the young people experiencing it all.

VICE surveyed 2,979 people aged 16 to 44 from across Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, and other parts of Southeast Asia to find out how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their lives, their worries and fears, and what they think a post-coronavirus world looks like.

First, some good news. It turns out that young people in Asia-Pacific (APAC) are 1.7x times more “hopeful” than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

youth coronavirus asia australia

But they are still worried. Uncertainty emerged as the predominant sentiment among youths in the region. When asked to describe their current emotions, compared to an average day before the coronavirus outbreak, 71 percent of the respondents said they felt uncertainty, while 62 percent said they felt empathy. Other emotions most felt include fear, stress, and gratitude.

Co-existing with an invisible enemy is not easy on anyone but the situation is especially hard on those with mental health issues. Some germaphobes and those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are often triggered by news of confirmed cases and preventative measures.

Youths in APAC are nervous about the coronavirus outbreak for a variety of reasons. The government, people, and their family are some of their biggest causes of anxiety.

Many are worried that their loved ones could catch the virus. At the height of China’s battle, millennials and zoomers had to deal with relatives who refused to observe self-isolation measures. In their desperation, some even resorted to calling the cops on their parents. It turns out, these Chinese parents aren’t the only stubborn ones. Young people in other parts of the world are also having trouble keeping the elderly, who are disproportionately at risk of dying from the coronavirus, at home.

youth coronavirus asia australia

While the health of friends and family is the biggest cause of anxiety, they are also the biggest source of support for young people during this trying period. Social media and stable finances are also important factors in keeping them emotionally grounded.

youth coronavirus asia australia

Asia is notorious for its workaholic culture. In the pervasive milieu of rat races and toxic productivity, it’s hardly surprising that people are burning out. This is where the coronavirus pandemic offers a silver lining — according to the survey, young people in APAC are unexpectedly grateful for more time amidst widespread quarantine measures.

youth coronavirus asia australia

Finally, like the rest of the world, APAC youths are split pretty evenly on the long-term impact of the pandemic. As expected, a country’s social, political, and economic states play a big role in how citizens are handling the crisis. Those in South Korea and some parts of Southeast Asia like Singapore and Malaysia tend to think that COVID-19 will have a positive long-term effect, while those in the Philippines and India are nearly two times more likely to be concerned about the availability of basic food and supplies compared to the rest of APAC, as they navigate the crisis.

youth coronavirus asia australia

According to the respondents, some societal changes that we may see as a result of the pandemic include how the economy operates, modes of community engagement, how we socialise, and the way we work. The biggest long-term change they’re anticipating? The way we practice health and hygiene.

From a macro-perspective, this is what a post-coronavirus world looks like to APAC youths. At the individual level, though, people have different plans for the first thing they’ll do when the pandemic is over. In another story, some told VICE that they’re most looking forward to going on picnics, getting a haircut, and getting back in the dating game.

Cover: Photo by Victor He on Unsplash.