Cardiff University study finds negative impact of COVID on children’s mental well-being
Children in the UK were eating fewer vegetables, exercising less and suffering more emotional disturbances in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, research from Cardiff University reports. According to a biennial survey by researchers at Cardiff University, primary school-aged children reported a dramatic increase in elevated or clinically significant emotional issues in early 2021, compared to the same survey conducted in 2019. The poll, conducted between April and June, found that 27% of grade 6 children had significant emotional issues, up from just 17% in 2019, with minimal change in behavioral difficulties.
Children from low-income families were almost twice as likely as those from high-income families to report emotional and behavioral problems. Based on evidence from previous global studies, Kelly Morgan, a social science researcher in Cardiff, believes the pandemic will leave a lifelong impression on children’s mental health as they grow older. Based on the results of the COVID-19 study, children and their families have been severely affected during the pandemic, Morgan added in the report. We know that at times children were prohibited from playing with other children, but we also know that young people were extremely concerned for the health of their families and others, Morgan said in the report.
The impact of COVID-19 on children
The report underscored the critical role schools played during and after the pandemic. 90% of children surveyed said their teachers looked after them, and 80% said there was at least one adult at school they could talk to. Professor Graham Moore, who led the study, which was funded by the Welsh government, said it demonstrates that good relationships between teachers and their students are being preserved. These ties were still strong among the children examined, underscoring the critical role educators played for young people during the pandemic, he added. The study analyzed data from 1,863 children in 76 schools.
It is possible that if the teachers and support workers had not done a great job of engaging their students in this way, we would have faced an even more serious mental health issue among our young people, noted. Moore. The study found that the 10 and 11-year-olds surveyed were consistently poorer in terms of nutrition and exercise during the outbreak than in previous years. The number of young people consuming daily amounts of vegetables increased from 52% in 2019 to 41% in 2021, while those consuming fruit daily increased from 59% to 47%.
Consumption of vegetables remains more popular among middle and upper income families. The survey found that although 52% of children in high-income households consumed vegetables daily, only 35% of children in low-income households did. Morgan believes the disruption of family habits for 18 months may have made it difficult for parents to regularly buy and store perishable meals like fresh vegetables. On top of that, many young people depended on schools for breakfast and lunch, which could explain part of the reduction in fruit and vegetable consumption, he noted.