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Lance RappaportElevated prevalence of COVID-19 raised children’s worry about contracting the virus and their consequent psychological distress, says research led by UWindsor psychology professor Lance Rappaport.

Research findings show children’s mental health worsens as COVID-19 cases surge

The COVID-19 pandemic had a broad impact on the mental health of Ontario children, with their psychological distress rising with increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

That’s the finding of a research study that surveyed children and their caregivers over time, measuring their anxiety, depressive, irritability, and post-traumatic stress syndromes.

“Given the current public debate about public health measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19, particularly as it relates to children’s safety, this work is especially relevant now,” says psychology professor Lance Rappaport, the project’s lead researcher. “Our findings suggest that measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as masks and vaccines, may be substantially beneficial to children’s mental health both now and in the future.”

Respondents also reported greater stress related to lockdowns and the cancellation of significant events. The study found little evidence that monthly variation in virtual learning was associated with children’s mental health, however parents and guardians did identify increased psychological distress and depressive symptoms in children when they attended school online.

Besides Rappaport, the research team includes doctoral candidate Alexandra Mactavish, undergraduate psychology student Carli Mastronardi, UWindsor professors Rosanne Menna and Kimberley A. Babb, Marco Battaglia from the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and psychiatry professor Ananda B. Amstadter of Virginia Commonwealth University.

The project was initially funded by a seed grant from WE-Spark Health Institute with further funding from the Government of Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

The full paper can be found here: https://psyarxiv.com/e38ta/.