Young Canadians’ mental health suffered in early pandemic

By: Lynn Desjardins
A large majority of those aged two to 18 in Canada experienced harm to their mental health during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study. A research team surveyed parents of the younger cohort and those over 10 themselves between April and June of 2020. They asked about depression, anxiety, irritability, attention span, hyperactivity and obsessions/compulsion.
Of those between six and 18 years old, 70 per cent were found to have suffered a deterioration in at least one domain as did 66 per cent of children aged two to five. Some are said to have experienced improvement in at least one area. Of these, 19.5 per cent were school aged and 31.5 per cent were pre-schoolers.

Understanding the effects is crucial, say researchers

The researchers noted that for some children with pre-existing conditions, orders to stay at home may have given them some relief from stress. But those with autism spectrum disorder(ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have suffered from the loss of structure, consistency and familiar social interactions. Those with ASD reported the greatest deterioration in depression, irritability, attention span and hyperactivity, say researchers. They surmise this could be due to things like the closure of school-based services with greater online challenges, a reduction in home care services and disruptions to routines.
“Furthering our understanding of how different children are impacted by the pandemic is crucial to developing targeted interventions,” says Katherine Cost, lead author of the study and researcher at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. “Our study seeks to uncover these nuances by finding out which kids are being impacted, by which factors, and to what degree.”
The study was published in the journal European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry on February 26, 2021. The researchers continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on young people in Canada.