London: While COVID-19 spared neither young nor old, children were the worst affected as the pandemic disrupted their education and a normal childhood.
There is growing international evidence of a large increase in the proportion of children reporting elevated or clinically significant emotional difficulties since COVID began.
According to a new report from Cardiff University, over a quarter of 10-11-year-olds had elevated or clinically significant emotional difficulties during the pandemic, up from 17 percent in 2019.
The team, from the Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity, and Implementation in Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), found that not seeing friends or family and family members becoming unwell with COVID were among the most persistent worries experienced by 10-11-year-olds during the pandemic.
Children from poorer backgrounds were approximately twice as likely to report elevated emotional and behavioural difficulties compared to those from the most affluent families, according to the survey data.
“While people often say children are resilient, our data demonstrate the significant impact the pandemic has had on children’s mental health. Many children will recover once the current circumstances improve. However, for many, experiences of the pandemic will have lasting effect on their mental health without appropriate support for their emotional recovery,” said lead Professor Graham Moore, Deputy Director of DECIPHer.
The study, however, showed that despite the heavy emotional toll caused by lockdowns and home learning, most children remained well connected to their primary schools, rating relationships with staff positively.
In an online survey, which included Class 6 pupils from 76 schools in Wales, 90 percent children said they felt cared for and accepted by their teachers, while 80 percent trusted their teachers and agreed that there was at least one adult in school they can talk to about things that worry them.
“The relationships between teachers and their pupils remained consistently strong … demonstrating the vital role education professionals have played for young people during the pandemic,” Moore said.
“It’s plausible that if teachers and support staff hadn’t done such a good job of connecting with their pupils in this way, we would be dealing with an even greater mental health crisis among our children,” he added.