TUESDAY, Sept. 26, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Mental health among 5- and 8-year-olds deteriorated during the pandemic; however, inequalities narrowed as children in more advantaged groups saw greater deteriorations, according to a U.K. study published online Sept. 25 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Naomi Miall, from the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, and colleagues used data from 9,272 children (at 5 and 8 years of age; 16,361 observations) participating in the U.K. Household Longitudinal Study to understand whether child mental health inequalities changed in 2020 to 2021 versus prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (2011 to 2019).
The researchers observed a trend toward poorer mental health between 2011 and 2019, which continued during the pandemic. Greater mental health declines during the pandemic were seen among children with coupled, highly educated, employed parents and higher household income versus less advantaged groups, leading to narrowed inequalities. The mean difference in child Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire scores for unemployed versus employed parents was 2.35 prepandemic and dropped to 0.02 during the pandemic. Male sex and area deprivation continued to be related to worse scores. Worse mental health and greater declines during the pandemic were experienced by White children compared with children of other ethnicities.
"Interventions that can improve the mental health of children across all groups are needed to address the impacts of the pandemic while maintaining narrower inequalities," the authors write.