After a disrupted year in the classroom, many children have clearly been affected and many others may be predisposed to heightened anxiety levels.
The effect of the pandemic on young Australian children aged 1 to 5 years who experienced disruptions during their school year due to lockdowns, is now the subject of the COVID-19 Unmasked survey.
An online study, it is designed to help understand the pandemic’s impact on the mental health of young children (1-5 years) and their families.
The survey is jointly conducted by Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, Griffith University, the University of Queensland, the University of Southern Queensland and the University of Melbourne.
“The pandemic affected the mental health of young Victorian children more than those in other states during 2020, largely due to their state’s prolonged second lockdown, finds new survey.”According to Dr Mira Vasileva and Associate Professor Eva Alisic, University of Melbourne
Some of the key findings of the latest survey, published in March 2021, include:
- Children who experienced the second lockdown in Victoria were two to five times more likely to show emotional and behavioural difficulties than children in the other states.
- 1 in 4 children was still experiencing ‘higher than average’ levels of anxiety symptoms even after cessation of the previous lockdowns.
- Up to 12% of children who went through a second lockdown experienced ‘very high’ levels of mental health difficulties and 21-47% had scores in the ‘high’ range compared to a normative sample. Anxiety was most common and there was a marked increase in depression symptoms and attachment seeking behaviours.
- At least 1 in 5 parents who experienced a second lockdown reported they were struggling. There was a significant increase in mental health difficulties over time, with 23-44% of parents reporting moderate to severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.
Many families with young children continue to be affected by the ongoing uncertainty and unpredictability of life. While these difficulties are likely to be continue into the near future, some children and parents may require higher levels of psychological support. The results of the survey are particularly relevant given the reccurent lockdowns.