The following is excerpted from an online article posted by News Medical.
A new study has found that the rates of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents were significantly higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than they were pre-pandemic.
After the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020, approximately 91% of schools around the world were closed, and many remained closed until the third and fourth quarters of 2021. With home confinement, restrictions in physical activity and socialization, and disruptions in education, anxiety, and uncertainties increased in this age group.
The prolonged home confinement also increased internet and social media use, which exposed children and adolescents to a risky lifestyle through marketing that endorsed unhealthy foods, beverages, and alcohol consumption. Additionally, increased screen addiction also enhanced the risk of age-inappropriate content or sexual exploitation.
Scientists reviewed existing literature to understand the indirect impact, on mental health, of strategies that were applied to restrict the spread of COVID-19 infection among children and adolescents.
The initial search process generated a total of 1,672 reviews. Next, the duplicate data was removed, and 1,347 records were screened. Finally, eighteen systematic reviews fulfilled all eligibility criteria and were included in the current study. The majority of the primary studies, i.e., around 48%, were related to China.
Overall, the pooled prevalence (PP) of depression and anxiety was found to be 32% in children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic. This estimation was conducted without considering whether the candidates had prior mental health conditions or were SARS-CoV-2 positive. Nevertheless, the rate of anxiety and depression was found to be significantly more than in pre-pandemic conditions.
The detrimental effects of COVID-19-related strategies, such as lockdown, home confinement, school closures, and decreased social interactions, on the mental health of children and adolescents were highlighted in this study. In addition, this meta-analysis indicated a high prevalence of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study appears in the BMJ Global Health journal.