A new scientific paper by University of Windsor researchers shows the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of Ontario children.
Overall, researchers say children and their parents or caregivers reported a broad impact of the pandemic on children’s psychological distress and psychiatric symptoms during the research phase from June 2020 through December 2021.
The report shows children reported greater worry that they or a loved one might contract COVID-19 during months when there were more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths related to COVID-19.
Greater worry that they or a loved one might contract COVID-19 was associated with elevated psychological distress and elevated symptoms on five of seven psychiatric disorders - depression, irritability, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder.
“Given the current public debate about public health measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19, particularly as it relates to children’s safety, this work is especially relevant now,” said lead researcher Lance Rappaport, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Windsor.
“Our findings suggest that measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as masks and vaccines, may be substantially beneficial to children’s mental health both now and in the future.”
The research suggests children also reported greater stress related to lockdowns and the cancellation of significant events when there were more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths related to COVID-19.
Other findings include little evidence that monthly variation in virtual learning was associated with children’s mental health, but parents and guardians did identify increased psychological distress and depressive symptoms in children when they attended school online.
Research was initially funded by a seed grant from WE-SPARK Health Institute, and further funded by the Government of Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.