Mental health symptoms in children and adolescents during COVID-19 in Australia

Sicouri, Gemma, March, Sonja, Pellicano, Elizabeth, De Young, Alex C., Donovan, Caroline L., Cobham, Vanessa E., Rowe, Arlen, Brett, Simon ORCID:, Russell, Jeremy K., Uhlmann, Laura and Hudson, Jennifer L. (2023) Mental health symptoms in children and adolescents during COVID-19 in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 57 (2). pp. 213-229. ISSN 0004-8674

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Objective: COVID-19 has led to disruptions to the lives of Australian families through social distancing, school closures, a temporary move to home-based online learning, and effective lockdown. Understanding the effects on child and adolescent mental health is important to inform policies to support communities as they continue to face the pandemic and future crises. This paper sought to report on mental health symptoms in Australian children and adolescents during the initial stages of the pandemic (May to November 2020) and to examine their association with child/family characteristics and exposure to the broad COVID-19 environment. Methods: An online baseline survey was completed by 1327 parents and carers of Australian children aged 4 to 17 years. Parents/carers reported on their child’s mental health using five measures, including emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention, anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms. Child/family characteristics and COVID-related variables were measured. Results: Overall, 30.5%, 26.3% and 9.5% of our sample scored in the high to very high range for emotional symptoms, conduct problems and hyperactivity/inattention, respectively. Similarly, 20.2% and 20.4% of our sample scored in the clinical range for anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms, respectively. A child’s pre-existing mental health diagnosis, neurodevelopmental condition and chronic illness significantly predicted parent-reported child and adolescent mental health symptoms. Parental mental health symptoms, having a close contact with COVID-19 and applying for government financial assistance during COVID-19, were significantly associated with child and adolescent mental health symptoms. Conclusion: Our findings show that Australian children and adolescents experienced considerable levels of mental health symptoms during the initial phase of COVID-19. This highlights the need for targeted and effective support for affected youth, particularly for those with pre-existing vulnerabilities.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: G.S. was supported by a Macquarie University Research Fellowship for the duration of this project (MQIRGR0001041). E.P. was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT190100077) for the duration of this project. S.M., C.D., V.C., A.R., J.R. and L.U. acknowledge funding provided by the Medical Research Future Fund through the Department of Health (APP1179490).
Uncontrolled Keywords: adolescent,child,covid-19,mental health,pandemic,psychiatry and mental health,sdg 3 - good health and well-being ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2700/2738
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Norwich Medical School
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2024 13:31
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2024 01:51
DOI: 10.1177/00048674221090174


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