MONDAY, Dec. 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in depression/anxiety problems and social risks among urban, racial- and ethnic-minority school-age children versus before the pandemic, according to a study published online Dec. 2 in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health.
Andrea E. Spencer, M.D., from the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues assessed mental health symptoms and social risks during COVID-19 versus before the pandemic among urban, racial- and ethnic-minority school-age children. The analysis included caregivers of 168 children (aged 5 to 11 years old) recruited from an urban safety-net hospital-based pediatric primary care practice with follow-up from September 2019 to January 2021.
The researchers found that children had significantly higher levels of emotional and behavioral symptoms midpandemic versus prepandemic across all domains. During the pandemic, significantly more children had clinical concerns arising from a positive Pediatric Symptom Checklist total score and internalizing (depression and anxiety) score versus before the pandemic. Additionally, caregivers reported significantly more social risks during the pandemic. There was a correlation observed between mental health symptoms and number of social risks before the pandemic, but not during the pandemic. There were also significant associations noted between less school assignment completion, increased screen time, and caregiver depression and worse midpandemic mental health in children.
"These findings point to the critical need for public health efforts to mitigate the psychosocial effects of the pandemic on racial and ethnic minority children and communities while searching for solutions to support the increased demand," Spencer said in a statement.