First pandemic youth mental health review indicates demand for services will increase

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First comprehensive study to assess child and youth mental health research using evidence spanning before and during COVID-19 finds impact on mental health that may lead to increased demand for support services .

The research, led by the University of Exeter and the University of Cambridge, is the first to examine research that contains information on young people’s mental health before and during the pandemic. The study gives more insight into changes in the mental health of children and young people of different ages across the world during the pandemic.

The study is published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The researchers collected 51 studies that looked at how the pandemic has affected the mental health of young people in various areas. Crucially, these studies included baseline mental health information, collected before the pandemic rather than relying on retrospective perceptions of change.

The demand for rapid research amid the evolving pandemic meant that the standard of studies was variable, with only four of the included studies rated as high quality.

While the evidence suggested some deterioration in a few aspects of mental health, overall the results were mixed, with no clear trends emerging. The results of studies that have measured the same type of mental health problem in different ways have been mixed, suggesting that the effects are not universal and depend on the circumstances and contexts of children, young people and families. The researchers say the overall effect is large enough to lead to an increase in demand for services.

Study author Dr Tamsin Newlove-Delgado, from the University of Exeter, said: “The pandemic has affected the lives of children and young people around the world, and we have heard a lot about the impact on mental health. research in the area provides further evidence that already stretched services are likely to see an increase in demand, but things may not be as bad for everyone as some headlines suggest.”

“However, even a small average change in mental health symptoms for each child can mean that at a societal level, large numbers of children move from managing OK to needing professional support. Children and young people need to be priorities in pandemic recovery, and explicitly considered in the planning of any future pandemic response.”

The researchers found evidence of deterioration in a range of broader measures of mental health, such as an increase in overall behavioral, emotional or anxiety problems, as well as many studies that reported no change and some reported improvements in mental health. .

The article points out that research in this area is particularly difficult to interpret, because developmentally, mental health problems have become more common in adolescence than in childhood. It is therefore difficult to assess to what extent the negative impacts observed are the result of the aging of the children in the studies or are really linked to the pandemic.

Co-author Professor Tamsin Ford, University of Cambridge, said: “Studying the whole population of children and young people means that our research may not pick up differences between groups that may have do better or worse during the pandemic.”

“For example, other research found that some children and young people reported sleeping and eating better during the lockdowns, or found it easier to access distance learning because they could work at their own pace. others have struggled with lack of structure or lack of access to distance or peer tuition.”

Study author Dr Abigail Russell, from the University of Exeter, said: “The race for answers during the pandemic has meant that much research has been carried out rapidly, using opportunistic samples, by example by asking people in online surveys how they felt about their child’s mental health had been affected by the pandemic.Unfortunately, this means that the quality of research overall is quite poor, and even the studies that we included in our review with pre-pandemic information was overall not of very high quality.

“This may be partly due to the pressure to quickly publish research on the pandemic and its impacts. As a research community, we urgently need to do better for our young people who are struggling with their mental health, to understand the impact on them and their families, to target support where it is needed In the longer term, researchers, funders and policymakers should take a more cohesive approach to supporting and conducting high-quality research.

More information:
Tomonori Sato et al, The impact of Covid-19 on psychopathology in children and young people worldwide: a systematic review of studies with pre- and intra-pandemic data, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2022).

Provided by the University of Exeter

Quote: First pandemic youth mental health review indicates demand for services will increase (2022, November 24) Retrieved November 24, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-11-pandemic-young -people-mental-health.html

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First pandemic youth mental health review indicates demand for services will increase

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