Media Release – Research warns of link between lockdowns & child mental health

Family First NZ says that new research from University of Auckland researchers needs to be taken into account when determining decisions around lockdowns, and possible effects on mental health and wellbeing and our responses, especially for children.

The letter “Higher Rates Of Hospital Treatment For Parasuicide Are Temporally Associated With Covid-19 Lockdowns In New Zealand Children” appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health and is by senior lecturer of epidemiology Dr Simon Thornley, Professor Cameron Grant and Dr Gerhard Sundborn from Auckland University.

The researchers looked at rates of hospital treatment for parasuicide (attempted suicide) using hospital diagnoses for children aged 10–14 years from the Ministry of Health, and found a “clear upward trend in the latter half of 2020 from a stable baseline” of about 40 children per month to a peak of 90 cases. Rates have remained high, but have subsequently declined, but not back to baseline.

They say “Anecdotal clinical experience from paediatricians during the 2020–2021 COVID-19 period suggests not only increases in parasuicides, but also in children with somatic symptoms, which are likely related to anxiety. This has led to an increase in violent and aggressive behaviour on wards and consequent stress for health-care professionals involved in their care.”

An earlier meta-analysis by researchers from University College Dublin found that COVID-19 has an impact on youth mental health and is particularly associated with depression and anxiety in adolescent cohorts. The researchers said “These research findings highlight the fact that when schools are closed, adolescents report that there are many aspects of their lives that are disrupted. The impact of long term disruption of this type on mental and physical health is confirmed by research, which indicates that when children are out of school, they are less physically active, spend more time on screens, have more irregular sleep patterns, and less favourable diets…. These negative effects are likely to be exacerbated when lockdown measures result in children being confined to their homes with limited outdoor activities and no interactions with same aged friends.”

“This is important research because it reminds us that while on one hand lockdowns are effective in reducing the spread of the virus, they can also have other unintended adverse effects on health and wellbeing,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“These are important considerations to be balanced when determining our ongoing response and ensuring that young people and their families are being given appropriate support and resources while isolated in lockdowns.”

ENDS

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