‘Worrying’ increases in mental health symptoms among primary school children – study
Monday, March 1, 2021
Emotional and behavioural mental health symptoms have again increased among primary school children during the latest lockdown, according to new research.
Findings from the the latest survey from the Oxford University led Covid-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics (Co-SPACE) study of 8,225 parents and carers.
Parents tracking the changes in children’s and young people’s mental health last November and then in January, found that behavioural, emotional, and restless/attentional difficulties have increased again since the latest national lockdown. This was especially the case in primary school aged children aged four to 10 years.
Children with Special Educational Needs, disabilities and those from low-income or single adult households have continued to show elevated mental health symptoms throughout the pandemic, with higher levels of behavioural, emotional, and restless/attentional difficulties, the survey found.
And not having a sibling was associated with higher levels of restless/attentional difficulties throughout the pandemic but was not associated with differences in behavioural or emotional symptoms.
Cathy Creswell, professor of clinical developmental psychology at the University of Oxford and co-lead of the study said, ‘We are really concerned that in our study population we have once again seen increases in mental health symptoms across emotional and behavioural domains in primary school children in January... We also continue to see that families who are living on low incomes and children and young people with special educational needs are experiencing high levels of difficulties.’
Clare Stafford, vice-chair, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC) and CEO of Charlie Waller Trust said that the findings highlight the ‘worrying rise’ in mental health symptoms among children and young people during the latest lockdown.
She added, ‘We know that the pandemic has widened existing inequalities, and these findings once again highlight the unequal impacts on children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and children living in families on low income.
‘The findings also show worrying increases in mental health symptoms among primary school aged children. School closures will have likely meant children have lost their social connections and regular routines, something that we know is so important to their mental health and wellbeing.
The youngest children can’t be forgotten in the pandemic.’
'The CYPMHC is calling for a more ambitious approach in the way we support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. We need a system that fully responds to mental health needs, now and beyond the pandemic. Most importantly, we must listen and respond to what children and young people tell us so that we can build a system that works for them.’
- Download the report here