COVID-19 has caused plenty of problems in the world as we know it. The economy has suffered, people are sick, and many are dealing with depression and other disorders that they may or may not have been struggling with before the pandemic.
It’s no surprise that children are suffering from mental challenges as well. With limited social interaction, the struggles of remote learning, the potential for conflict at home, and more, children living in the COVID-19 pandemic are dealing with an increased measure of stress.
Children thrive on predictability when it comes to their home life. School, their parents’ personalities, meal times, and the regular emotions and concerns are now all concentrated in the home environment.
Children, now more than ever, have to deal with uncertainty. They worry about being able to see their friends or relatives, going to school, and, of course, getting sick. These anxieties are difficult for parents to control because there is no simple answer. Parents may also struggle to provide comfort to their children, or even to remain patient at times.
With uncertainty in their everyday lives, compartmentalizing the challenges of the day has become more difficult for both children and parents.
Research and Coping Styles across the World
Results based on coping styles in China
A survey of 359 children and 3254 adolescents aged 7 to 18 years old during the coronavirus spread in China was conducted in mid 2020. It included a scale for depression, one for anxiety, and one for coping style.
The results showed 22.3 percent of youth had scores indicating symptoms of clinical depression. This is an increase from the usual 13.2 percent of estimated youth depression in China.
Anxiety symptoms had a significant increase after the spread of the pandemic. Youth with friends or family with COVID-19 had higher levels of anxiety than previously reported.
One effective solution was problem-focused coping styles. Studies showed that symptoms decreased when researchers used these methods. Emotion-focused coping styles were associated with higher levels of depression. Therefore, professionals did not recommend them.
Results based on age, gender and skills in China
Another survey consisted of 8079 junior and senior high school students in China. The survey assessed depression and anxiety symptoms during the pandemic. They used a Patient Health Questionnaire and a Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire. 43.7 percent of students had anxiety symptoms, and 37.4 percent had depressive and anxiety symptoms.
Depression and anxiety symptoms were the highest in females, and they got higher as the students got older (seniors vs. juniors).
Students who weren’t depressed or anxious often utilized preventive and control measures–whereas those with symptoms largely did not.
During a lockdown for the pandemic in Bangladesh, a survey was given to 384 parents with children 5-15 years of age. Researchers grouped depression, anxiety, and sleep disorder severities into several categories. They were ranked based on the severity of the issues in the children. Those categories concluded the following:
- Subthreshold: 43 percent
- Mild: 30.5 percent
- Moderate: 19.3 percent
- Severe: 7.2 percent
Italy and Spain
Researchers performed another assessment on children and adolescents from Italy and Spain. The survey included 1143 parents of children 3-18 years of age who answered questions based on quarantine effects on their children compared to before the quarantine.
The results showed 85.7 percent of parents reported changes in their children’s behaviors and emotions during the quarantine. Those changes included:
- Difficulty Concentrating: 76.6 percent
- Boredom: 52 percent
- Irritability: 39 percent
- Restlessness: 38.8 percent
- Nervousness: 38 percent
- Loneliness: 31.1 percent
- Uneasiness: 30.4 percent
- Worry: 30.1 percent
Parents themselves reported feeling stressed as well. Seventy-five percent of them reported feeling worried about quarantine. Parental stress connects to high amounts of reports in emotional and behavioral symptoms in their children.
Predicting the Future
Researchers examined the effects of social isolation and loneliness on mental health in children and adolescents during a systematic review. They examined the connection between loneliness and mental health issues in healthy children to determine if these issues during quarantine will result in future mental health issues.
The review included 63 studies with 51,576 participants. Loneliness and social isolation increased the risk of depression occurring up to 9 years after the cause. Duration, as opposed to the intensity of loneliness, was associated more strongly with mental health symptoms.
Therefore, youth experiencing loneliness during the pandemic may experience mental health issues in the future. Professionals strongly recommend preventive support and early intervention.
The research indicates that many children and adolescents are struggling with depression and anxiety as a result of the pandemic and its cascading effects. Additional research is needed, but there are several things professionals recommend to help the youth.
Clinicians should increase awareness among parents and youth about the potential effects of the pandemic. They should assess the family situation and how everyone is doing emotionally. Early intervention may prevent long-term psychological effects.
For some who already suffer from mental health issues, it could make their problems worse.
For some students who suffer from anxiety at school (such as social anxiety), homeschooling may help relieve their symptoms. However, this could result in similar anxiety when they return to school.
Is it Time to Get Help?
At Lisa Rogers Counseling, I offer a wide range of therapy and mental health services for several areas. You are not alone in your struggle and neither are your loved ones. Reach out today to make an appointment.