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Anxiety, depression in kids double during pandemic; teens, girls most at risk: study

Last Updated Aug 9, 2021 at 10:43 am MDT

(CREDIT: iStock user ridvan_celik)

Study: pandemic doubles depression, anxiety in kids

Older teens and girls were found to be experiencing the highest levels of anxiety and depression during pandemic

U of C research team suggests more supports be put in place for kids struggling with mental health

CALGARY – Yet another study has come out showing just how much our kids’ mental health has suffered through the pandemic.

According to a meta-analysis from the University of Calgary, which took from studies around the world and followed a combined 80,879 kids, symptoms of anxiety and depression doubled in children and teens when compared to pre-pandemic times.

The school recently published its latest research in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics and says it’s further proof of a worldwide mental health crisis.

“Estimates show that one in four youth globally is experiencing clinically elevated depression symptoms while one in five has clinically elevated anxiety symptoms,” shared Dr. Nicole Racine, a clinical psychologist and the lead author of the paper.

RELATED: Suicidal crises, mental fatigue: Kids grapple with reentry

Older teens and girls were found to be experiencing the highest levels of anxiety and depression.

Dr. Sheri Madigan, a U of C clinical psychologist and Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Child Development, says rates fluctuated when the COVID-19 restrictions changed where they lived.

“When more restrictions are imposed, rates go up. Being socially isolated, kept away from their friends, their school routines, and social interactions have proven to be really hard on kids,” said Madigan, who co-authored the paper.

“When COVID-19 started, most people thought it would be difficult at the outset but that kids would be better over time, as they adjusted and got back to school. But when the pandemic persisted, youth missed a lot of milestones in their lives. It went on for well over a year and for young people that’s a really substantial period of their lives.”

RELATED: Experts say student mental wellness should be top priority as kids return to class

Racine and Madigan say symptoms are compounding in kids as the pandemic goes on, and a major continuer is the fact that kids aren’t able to predict what comes next.

“It’s disjointing for kids because they can’t predict what their environment is going to look like, and we know when their world lacks predictability and controllability, their mental suffers,” explained Madigan.

And neither doctor can say if or when kids will bounce back.

In any case, the U of C team is suggesting more supports be put in place for kids struggling with their mental health.

RELATED: Gov’t announces panel to review COVID-19’s impact on Alberta’s kids

“Long before the pandemic, we had a youth mental health system that was stretched and lacking resources. A potential doubling of mental health difficulties will overwhelm that system without a significant increase in resources,” said Racine.

“If we want to mitigate the sustained mental health effects of COVID-19, because of the chronic stressors our youth experienced, we have to prioritize recovery planning now. Not when the pandemic is over, but immediately. Because kids are in crisis right now,” added Madigan.