Almost one million people have experienced mental health problems for the first time since the pandemic, figures show.
Experts say the sharp rise is caused by post-pandemic stress disorder (PPSD) as people experience a lack of social contact due to work from home orders or furlough.
Mark Rayner, a former NHS therapist and founder of mental health treatment centre EASE Wellbeing, warned that the numbers are likely to surge as restrictions continue following the arrival of Omicron.
Mr Rayner said: “Working from home, the threat of lockdowns and the social isolation that come with these policies are particularly hard on the 18 to 39-year-old demographic.
“The overpriced housing market means most are either still stuck at home with parents – or living alone in poor, cramped rented accommodation that they’re struggling to afford due to many jobs being at risk because of constant changes in Covid precaution policies.
“This is a hugely turbulent time of change for this age bracket as they try to negotiate the housing market, jobs and relationships.
“So they are disproportionately impacted by the consequences of Covid, by being isolated, restricted from work or socialising and relating. And now they’re being further triggered by having to stay home once again due to the Omicron variant.
“Their symptoms include lethargy, sleeplessness, poor concentration, lack of motivation and anxiety issues.”
PPSD is a mental health condition induced by the pandemic. While it is not yet officially recognised, many experts believe it should be.
Mr Rayner expects this trend to continue, adding: “And I’d expect this to continue to surge over the next two years by tens thousands more each month. The number of people in this crucial age bracket suffering with mental health issues is very likely to double to close to 2 million new cases.
“This is based on the huge spike in referral numbers for mental health support we have seen, which is already projected to rise by two million over the next two years  - and what proportion of those we think are likely to have been specifically affected by pandemic-related isolation based on anecdotal feedback from the GPs who are referring them.
“Everything they are telling us suggests the real numbers are much higher than the official ones.”
He added that the rise of Zoom conversations has taken a toll on the mental well-being of thousands as it has failed “to replace the sense of joint endeavour and communal experience they were getting before”.