Mental health impacts of COVID-19

A recent Research Brief from the LifeCourse initiative presents data relating to child mental health and wellbeing. Click to read more

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in widespread changes to social life, schooling, and access to health and emergency care that affected the lives of many children, young people, and their families. In the context of these disruptions to normal life, the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people has been a significant concern for communities and governments.

The Melbourne Children’s LifeCourse initiative brings together 22 core high-quality, predominantly Victorian, longitudinal studies based at the Melbourne Children’s Campus, the oldest of which incorporates multiple generations and decades worth of data. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, LifeCourse coordinated a collaborative effort to ensure that vital data about how children, young people and their families were coping could be collected from these studies.

The most recent Research Brief from the Lifecourse initiative presents data relating to child mental health and wellbeing. Findings show that:

  • Mental health symptoms were common during the COVID-19 pandemic, with up to half of young people experiencing depressive symptoms and up to a quarter experiencing anxiety symptoms.
  • Children and young people who had mental health problems prior to the pandemic saw these problems intensify. They were 3 times more likely to report depressive symptoms during the pandemic.
  • The pandemic also brought on mental health problems for many other young people, who reported new mental health challenges during the pandemic despite no prior history.
  • Children and young people’s experiences and circumstances prior to the pandemic (positive and negative) played a crucial role in shaping risk for experiencing these mental health challenges.
  • In particular, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of those children, young people, and families who were experiencing socioeconomic adversity prior to COVID-19.

Clear risk and resilience factors were also found to influence child and adolescent mental health during the pandemic. These factors span individual, family and community. A summary of these factors and more detailed research findings can be found here

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