Study confirms toll the pandemic is taking on children’s mental health

Children wearing face masks in school. (File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / tomwang)

A study that surveyed children in Windsor-Essex from 190 families reveals the pervasive impact of the pandemic on their mental health.

The study, conducted by the WE-Spark Health Institute and researchers from the University of Windsor, shows that 51 per cent of participants aged eight to 13 reported clinically significant irritability, 34 per cent said they suffered from clinically significant anxiety, and a quarter had clinical depression.

“We sought to establish a baseline to first understand the effects of the pandemic on children’s mental health,” said Doctor Lance Rappaport, the lead investigator and an Assistant Professor of Psychology. “We then focused on establishing whether the impact on children was limited to PTSD-related symptoms consistent with trauma or included broader impacts consistent with chronic stress.”

The study also asked whether social support from family and friends mitigated the impact on their distress.

“Research on prior cases suggests that one’s sense that family and friends are available to help in a crisis can lessen its psychological toll,” continued Rappaport.

Since pandemic’s beginning, there has been an urgent need for data on children to inform public policy on education and social services.

“Fortunately, this research and others like it across Canada and internationally are underway to inform new treatment strategies and to develop resources to help children recover,” said Rappaport.

The study is one of the first on the impact COVID-19 is having on the mental health of children in Canada who were not previously diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.

“Understanding the impact of the pandemic allows us to now design new treatments and tailor existing services to best meet children’s specific, individual needs,” he said.