COVID-19 protocols have been known to cause financial hardship — particularly among and middle-class families — and now a new study highlights the toll these struggles have taken on children’s mental health.
A new study led by researchers from Columbia University and Weill Cornell Medicine, both in New Yorksuggests that the family’s economic hardship was the biggest driver of “COVID-related stress, sadness and worry” in children.
The study, published on the JAMA Network, also suggested that COVID-related school closures had no impact the mental health of children.
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Researchers analyzed data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study funded by the National Institutes of Health. This study surveyed 6,030 children between the ages of 10 and 13 in 21 US cities between 2020 and 2021.
Data was also collected from children and their guardians about their experiences during the pandemic, including job loss, distance learning and COVID-Related Policies.
In addition, it included questions about the link between sleep and mental health.
dr Michael Roeske, a licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of the Newport Healthcare Center, which is headquartered in CaliforniaHe wasn’t involved in the study, but said he wasn’t surprised that financial issues impacted children’s mental health.
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“Kids are often very attuned to stress at home,” he told Fox News Digital in an email.
“If there were feelings of insecurity and apprehension, which are almost certainly due to job losses or falling incomes, it would undoubtedly have an impact on them. When parents are overly stressed or anxious themselves, children may no longer feel safe at home. That can be devastating for development.”
“When parents are overly stressed or anxious themselves, children may no longer feel safe at home.”
And in even worse cases, children could worry about basic needs and housing, he added.
dr Roeske said he’s seeing the impact of the pandemic firsthand through Newport Healthcare, which operates a number of mental health treatment centers across the country.
“We counsel more children who are struggling with depression, anxiety and suicidality than we’ve seen before,” he said.
Study suggests school closures had no impact on mental health
While other studies have found that school closures have indeed led to increases in children’s mental health problems, this study found no such link.
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dr Yunyu Xiao, an assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medicine who co-authored the study, offered a possible explanation for what may seem like a surprising lack of effect.
“If children had more protective factors like increased parental care at home during lockdown, that would help mental health,” she said in an email to Fox News Digital.
The study didn’t use specific measures of mental health, so it couldn’t indicate severity or whether new disorders were emerging, said Dr. Roeske.
“Certainly, it’s hard to argue that there was no link between school closures and children’s mental health, given the resulting isolation, insecurity and even extra time on devices,” he said.
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“Just disrupting normal routine in such extreme ways can cause anxiety and symptoms of depression.”
Communication, mental health care are key
To protect children’s mental health during difficult times, it’s important to maintain age-appropriate lines of communication, Roeske said, and to carefully consider how much children hear and know about financial problems.
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“Know signs of distresslike behavior changes, eating habits and sleep,” he said.
“And get your child help if things don’t improve or continue to get worse; don’t wait for it to get really bad.”
dr Roeske pointed out that many parents do not know who to turn to.
He cited a recent survey of 1,000 parents of teens ages 13 to 17 conducted by Wakefield Research for Newport Healthcare.
The researchers did not look at the severity or the emergence of new psychiatric disorders.
While nearly half of parents (46%) said the pandemic allowed them to see more of their teens’ mental health issues during quarantine and distance learning, nearly 70% lacked knowledge about what to do if they teenager has problems that may require treatment.
The study had limitations
Because the data was self-reported, Dr. Xiao, there is a possibility that the answers were biased or inaccurate. Also, the researchers did not look at the severity or onset of new psychiatric disorders.
“Future research should include more precise mental health measures such as clinical scales and leverage advanced techniques for more efficient and unbiased estimations,” she said.
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There may also be other confounding factors, such as B. COVID-19-related deaths in the family that could affect mental health, said Dr. Xiao too.
“While our study aimed to correct biases for family financial and academic disorders, this does not mean that other significant disorders are not present,” she explained.
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The study also did not have a large enough sample to segment by race, age, gender, or family background.