Children who endured the lockdowns due to coronavirus policies are at an increased risk of social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties, according to a study from Oxford University.
In the study, published in JAMA Network Open, researchers focused on children aged 11 to 13 and how their mental health was affected by the lockdown policies. Over a three-year period, data was collected from My Resilience in Adolescence (MYRIAD) on four separate occasions from over 6,386 students who went through the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. This data was then compared to 864 students from 2019, meaning they had not yet experienced the subsequent restrictions.
The researchers found that the children who experienced the lockdowns were at a greater risk of facing social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties, as well as a decline in mental well-being. The children in the covid group had a 12.8 percentage point increased risk of developing mental health issues, compared to a 4.5 percentage point risk for the children in the comparison group. Cases of depression rose by 8.5 percentage points among the children who lived through the covid crisis, whereas there was only a 0.3 percentage point increase for the group that participated in the study prior to the pandemic.
“School closures should be avoided”
– With the increased focus on young people’s mental health, it is vitally important that we work to understand both what places young people at risk and what protects them under challenging circumstances, says Professor Willem Kuyken from Oxford University.
Furthermore, it was found that a good school environment, positive relationships at home, and friends were crucial pillars of support for the children. It was also better for the children’s mental health if they had only participated a little in school during the lockdowns, rather than not at all.
– This research not only demonstrates the impact the pandemic had on young people’s mental health but importantly also some of the protective factors that helped them get through it, Kuyken adds.
– Also we can see that full school closures should be avoided to protect the adjustment of young people, says Kuyken.