One in four children suffered greater anxiety and depression during pandemic
More than a quarter of children and a fifth of teenagers suffered an increase in anxiety and depression during the pandemic, research suggests.
Girls and those from higher-income backgrounds were the worst affected, according to findings published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers found 25.2 per cent of children and 20.5 per cent of adolescents reported an increase in depression and anxiety during the pandemic.
Symptoms included sadness, hopelessness, loneliness and fearfulness.
Girls experienced the biggest increase in depression, which the researchers suggested could be a result of higher reported rates of loneliness, greater exposure to adversity and violence, and more use of social media.
Boys in the same age group were more likely to show external symptoms such as aggression and violence.
The team analysed studies of more than 40,000 children and teens prior to the pandemic, and over 33,000 from research that took place during it.
The data, which came from 12 countries, followed children from the ages of 10 to 19.
Social isolation quadruples the risk
Study author Dr Sheri Madigan, of the University of Calgary, Canada, said: “There are many reasons to expect changes in depression and anxiety symptoms among children and adolescents during the pandemic.
“Social isolation and quarantine orders have been associated with a four-fold increased risk in stress-related symptoms among children.”
Increased screen time, school closures, the cancellation of extracurricular activities, greater loneliness, decreased physical activity and a lack of school mental health support could have contributed, the researchers said.
Dr Madigan added: “Commensurate with these risk factors were considerable changes to the family milieu, which can have spillover effects on child and adolescent well-being, such as increases in parent depression and anxiety symptoms, family violence, job loss and alcohol consumption.”
The rise in anxiety and depression was more than what was expected, based on trends, and could therefore be attributed to disruptions from the pandemic, she said, such as the restrictions and stress imposed on children and young people.
The researchers hoped their findings would be used to inform policy and public health responses to address mental health concerns.