Children are likely to have high rates of depression once lockdown ends, researcher find
Those who work with children in a social, clinical or academic setting, including those in early childhood education and care (ECEC) need to be prepared for children and adolescents who are likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety “long after current lockdown and social isolation ends,” researchers have found.
Clinical services especially need to be prepared for a future spike in demand, according to the authors of a new rapid review into the long-term mental health effects of lockdown, which draws on over 60 pre-existing, peer-reviewed studies into topics spanning isolation, loneliness and mental health for young people aged between four and 21 years of age.
Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the review found that young people who are lonely might be as much as three times more likely to develop depression in the future, and that the impact of loneliness on mental health could last for at least nine years.
The studies highlighted an association between loneliness and an increased risk of mental health problems for young people, with further evidence showing a correlation between the duration of loneliness perhaps being more important than the intensity of loneliness in increasing the risk of future depression among young people.
This, the authors said, is a key finding which should be used by policy makers and advocates to support the need for additional mental health services to be made available for children and young people in the coming years.
Lead researcher Dr Maria Loades, said “from our analysis, it is clear there are strong associations between loneliness and depression in young people, both in the immediate and the longer-term. We know this effect can sometimes be lagged, meaning it can take up to ten years to really understand the scale of the mental health impact the COVID-19 crisis has created.”
“Returning to some degree of normality as soon as possible is of course important. However, how this process is managed matters when it comes to shaping young people’s feelings and experiences about this period,” Dr Loades added.
“For our youngest…we need to prioritise the importance of play in helping them to reconnect with friends and adjust following this intense period of isolation,” she said.
To access the work in full, please see here.