Even though COVID-19 is comparatively less risky for the physical health of children and adolescents, the pandemic has become a severe psychological test for them, know the impact it had on their mental health
The closure of educational, recreational, and sports institutions and the associated self-involvement, distance education, and limited communication with peers have affected children’s emotional well-being.
Being far from school also hurt. The school works as a socializing place, where kids learn how to communicate. When they were taken down from it, the level of socialization lowered a lot, like education. What can you do if googling homework help geometry is more common for them than going to the library (which is closed)?
How The COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis Affected The Mental Health Of Children And Adolescents And Impact On Them
Many studies have shown an increase in restlessness, restlessness, hyperactivity, and even aggression and disruptions in appetite and sleep. In particular, young children feared that family members might be infected with a new disease and were restless and anxious. At the same time, the adolescents struggled with turbulence and uncertainty about their academic and personal futures and exhibited increasing symptoms of infectious disorders.
In the international comparison, the applied measures and consequences of the pandemic were different, especially for children. For example, in many countries of Europe, the Middle East, and Central America, quarantine was accompanied by the closure of schools and kindergartens for several months and a severe curfew. In the Federal Republic of Germany, it is forbidden to stay even in children’s playgrounds.
In other countries, such as Switzerland or Sweden, quarantine restrictions were not as severe. However, we can say that everyone was disgusted by the live communication. And children and adolescents reported a significant decrease in their quality of life and increased psychological stress and fears. This is not surprising – for children, the year in which everything stopped turned significantly longer than for adults.
The representative study COPSY (Corona and Psyche) scientists from Great Britain and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) investigated the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents in Germany. From June 2020 to mid-September 2021, they surveyed about 1,000 children and youth and nearly 1,600 parents through an online questionnaire.
After the first round of surveys, which took place in February and December 2020, it became clear: that 71% of children and adolescents aged 7 to 17 experienced emotional stress through the pandemic. Two-thirds indicated a decrease in the quality of life and psychological well-being. At the same time, health conditions also deteriorated: twice as many children as in the first survey said they no longer played sports and spent more time with their smartphones or computers, including through distance learning.
Children and adolescents with lower social and economic status and lower levels of education than their parents suffered the most because they were less supported in their family environment. The story of domestic violence also increased, especially in socially unprotected families with more social stress, for example, through the loss of a job or a small living space.
Children’s anxiety and fears also increased significantly. In 24% of cases, this led to signs of anxiety disorders instead of 15% to pandemics. Psychological and psychosomatic problems are numerous and varied. They range from increased anxiety, ingestion difficulties, abdominal pain, and headaches to significantly more severe behavioral issues and hyperactivity abnormalities.
Returning to the COPSY study, there was no improvement two years after the first round of the trial. On the other hand, the anxiety only deepened due to prolonged social isolation. The second round of surveys in March 2020 and September 2021 found that the number of children who felt emotional stress from the pandemic increased to 80%. In addition to the significant increase in anxiety and fear during the first examination, psychosomatic symptoms and symptoms of depression were also frequent.
Parents of young children noted that their children became emotionally unstable. One of the reasons for this is the closure of kindergartens and, as a result, a disrupted daily routine. The children had to get used to an entirely new pattern, which is tremendous stress on their psyche. Parents noticed that the children became restless, and it was more important to calm them down and put them to bed.
The effects of quarantine and pandemics on children and adolescents with pre-existing mental disorders were also varied. The pandemic had a powerful impact on children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (see Tizhden, No. 35/2021), attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity disorder, or autism spectrum disorders. These children had particular difficulties with organizing work or distance education.
Despite the negative impact of the pandemic on the children’s psyche, there are some grounds for optimism. The prolonged isolation led to a general increased awareness of mental health, and parents began to turn more often to physicians. Today’s children are growing up at an age that can be very stressful for their mental well-being. Therefore, parents need to pay attention to any behavioral changes in their children and, if necessary, do not wait for a crisis and call for competent assistance.