The first lockdown, which slowed the spread of the coronavirus in the UK, resulted in a “steep rise” in depression, including in children seven and over, a new study shows.
Medical Research Council scientists compared data from parents, teachers, and children on the mental health of children ages 7-12 before and after lockdown.
They found that Covid-19 measures had a “medium to large” impact on mental health, largely due to social distancing and school closings during the four-month embargo.
Their findings suggest that the potential impact of lockdown on children’s mental health needs to be considered when planning future pandemic responses.
Medical Research Council scientists compared data from parents, teachers, and children on the mental health of children ages 7-12 before and after lockdown. Image from a picture agency
Prior to this investigation, there was little evidence of the impact of the lockdown on the mental health of young children, largely because numbers were difficult to find before the first lockdown began on March 23.
The researchers relied on data from children in eastern England who were part of the Resilience in Education and Development (RED) study.
They found that the prevalence of depressive symptoms in UK children ages seven to twelve rose “significantly” during the lengthy nationwide lockdown.
During the lockdown, 168 of their parents – 29 percent of the total sample – conducted online validated mental health assessments to assess their children’s emotional well-being, anxiety, and depression.
The ratings were then compared to the numbers collected 18 months earlier, which included a mix of parent, teacher and child rated mental health interventions.
Compared to the initial assessment, there were no significant changes in anxiety levels or emotional well-being during the lockdown.
Prior to this investigation, there was little evidence of the impact of the lockdown on the mental health of young children, largely because numbers were difficult to find before the first lockdown began on March 23
However, a “significant” increase in depressive symptoms was observed, the effect size of which was medium to large, the authors explained.
Your Child’s Signs Can Be Suppressed, And What To Do About It
Signs of depression in children can include:
- Prolonged sadness
- Lack of interest in things they used to enjoy
- Tiredness and exhaustion
- Insomnia or sleep too much
- Bad concentration
- Lack of confidence
- Eating too much or too little
- Inability to relax
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Numb to emotions
- Thoughts about suicide or harming yourself
Some also have physical symptoms such as a headache or stomach ache.
Older children can abuse alcohol or drugs.
Depression in children can occur as a result of family problems, bullying, other mental health problems, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
It can be triggered by an event, e.g. B. through a bereavement or a buildup of things.
If you suspect that your child is depressed, try talking to them about how they are feeling.
Let them know you are concerned and are there when they need you.
If they are not speaking to you, encourage them to reach out to another relative, teacher, or family friend.
If that doesn’t help, contact your GP, who may refer your child to a specialized mental health service.
Simply put, this means that, on average, there was around a 70 percent chance that a child’s depressive symptoms would worsen while in lockdown.
The researchers said their findings, published online by the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, were true even after considering potentially influential factors such as age, gender, and socioeconomic status.
To find out if changes during lockdown might have been caused by certain elements within the Depression Scale, the researchers looked at changes in the responses to each individual question on the Mental Health Scale.
They found significant increases for four out of five of the depression questions during lockdown.
This happened in relation to lethargy, difficulty enjoying activities, and feelings of sadness or emptiness.
The author of the study, Dr. Duncan Astle said children’s mental health seems to deteriorate with each subsequent group, even before lockdown occurred.
“Current results suggest that lockdown measures are likely to exacerbate this, particularly with an increase in symptoms of depression in children, which has been relatively uncommon in children of this age,” he said.
Karen Street of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said that while children rarely get Covid-19, measures to reduce the transmission of the virus are “severely affected”.
She said the RCPCH supports the government’s pledges to keep schools open and would like to see extracurricular activities resume as soon as possible.
“While we hope that for many children a return to normal will mean a ‘recovery’ in their emotional wellbeing, we also know that the socio-economic effects of lockdown will linger for many years to come,” added Dr. Street.
This will have secondary negative effects on children’s mental health in the future, even as the limitations wear off and things return to normal.
“Persistent mental health problems in childhood and adolescence are linked to poor outcomes in terms of education, employment, and long-term physical and mental health,” she said.
“It is important that sufficient investment is made in health, education and the voluntary sector to support children’s mental health as we recover from the pandemic.”
The results were published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.