COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Resource Center

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
February 04, 2021
1 min read

Psychological distress has increased among school-aged children since pandemic began

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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School-aged children and adolescents had a relatively high prevalence of self-reported psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to results of a cross-sectional study published in JAMA Network Open.

“Beyond mental health problems associated with home confinement, there is little knowledge about the mental health status and risk factors associated with the mental health of children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic, which could impede educators, administrators and policy makers from developing effective interventions to prevent adverse effects of home confinement,” Zuguo Qin, MPH, of the Health Publicity and Education Center of Guangdong Province in China, and colleagues wrote. “To fill this gap, we examined data from a sample covering a wide age range from 1 Chinese province with more than 1 million school-aged children and adolescents. The aims of this study were to understand the self-reported psychological distress status among school-aged children and adolescents and to identify the risk and protective factors associated with self-reported psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic using a cross-sectional study with large sample.”


In the study, home-based distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic served as the exposure. Self-reported psychological distress, measured via total score of three or greater on the 12-item General Health Questionnaire, served as the main outcome. The researchers analyzed risk factors linked to mental health status using multivariate logistic regression. They included survey data of 1,199,320 individuals in the final analysis.

Results showed self-reported psychological distress among 126,355 (10.5%) participants. High school students were at increased risk for psychological distress (OR = 1.19; 95% CI, 1.15-1.23) vs. students in primary school, and those who never wore a face mask (OR = 2.59; 95% CI, 2.41-2.79) were at increased risk vs. those who wore a face mask frequently. Further, those who spent less than 30 minutes exercising had increased risk for self-reported psychological distress vs. those who spent more than 1 hour exercising (OR = 1.64; 95% CI, 1.61-1.67).

“Based on these findings, it is necessary for governments, schools and families to pay attention to the mental health of school-aged children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic and take appropriate countermeasures to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health for children and adolescents,” Qin and colleagues wrote.