Over half of children reported significant depressive symptoms during COVID-19 second wave: SickKids

A new survey led by The Hospital for Sick Children has shown more than half of children and youth reported clinically significant depressive symptoms during the second wave of COVID-19 in Ontario.

There were over 2,700 participants in the survey ages two to 18 in Ontario and the findings demonstrated “a serious, sustained negative impact on the mental health of Ontario children, youth and their families.”

Of the children in the survey who were attending school, a total of almost 1,500 of the participants, there was a strong association with the time spent online learning and increases in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The study has not been peer-reviewed.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has occurred in a series of waves, the heightened levels of depression and anxiety among children and youth seen at the start of the pandemic have remained consistent,” read a release from SickKids.

The closure of schools and outdoor activities also led to a decrease of almost 30 per cent of kids who participate in sports and extracurriculars. Prior to the pandemic, 58 per cent participated in school sports and extracurriculars. This dropped to 27 per cent participating in sports and 16 per cent in extracurriculars.

Before the pandemic, 58 per cent of 1,261 participants surveyed participated in school sports and/or other extracurriculars, activities that are known to boost physical and mental health. During the pandemic, only 27 per cent participated in sports and 16 per cent in extracurriculars. Furthermore, losing in-school services, such as counselling, speech/language and occupational therapy, and learning supports, resulted in worse mental health outcomes for children and youth.

Principal investigator of the study, Dr. Daphne Korcazk, said these findings show the periods of modified in-person school were not enough to improve children’s mental health.

“This should serve as an urgent call to ensure that we do not replicate school as it was this past year in Ontario, and we get kids back to in-person learning, activities, and sports,” said Dr. Korcazk.

“The bottom line: Kids need school, friends and fun.”

Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has said in-person school is expected to resume in September with the goal of holding more classes and extracurriculars in person.

In-person learning in Ontario was closed for the last two months of the school year due to the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools were also closed after the Christmas holiday when the first stay-at-home order went into effect.


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