Children’s mental health deteriorating in pandemic

How children and youths deal with burden of corona
13 July 2020
University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf

The quality of life among children and youths in Germany has decreased during the corona pandemic and goes hand in hand with a higher incidence of psychological and psychosomatic abnormalities according to the COPSY study conducted by researchers at University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE). Children from socially weaker families have been badly hit by the crisis. The researchers surveyed 1,040 children and young people between 11 and 17 years throughout Germany between May 26, 2020 and June 10, 2020 and 1,586 parents using an online questionnaire for the study.

Children suffering from less physical contact with the outside world

"Most children and youths feel burdened, worry more, pay less attention to their health and complain more often about quarrels in the family. For every second child, the relationship with their friends has suffered due to the lack of physical contact," said Prof. Dr. Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer, head of the study and the "Child Public Health" research group at the UKE's Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.


Lower quality of life, higher risk of mental abnormalities

Two thirds of children and adolescents noted a reduced quality of life and a lower level of psychological well-being compared to only one third of children and adolescents prior to the pandemic. The risk of psychological abnormalities increased from around 18 per cent before corona to 31 per cent during the crisis, the study found. Children and youths worry more nowadays and show abnormalities such as hyperactivity, emotional problems and behavioural problems. Psychosomatic complaints such as irritability, problems falling asleep or head and stomach aches also occurred more frequently during the corona crisis.


COSPY study on mental stress in children
© University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)

Difficult everyday school life 

Noticeable changes were noted in reference to school, family or friends during the corona pandemic. Two thirds of the children and youths found school and learning more strenuous than before corona. They now have problems coping with everyday school life and sometimes find it extremely stressful. The mood in families has also deteriorated with 27 per cent of children and youths and 37 per cent of parents saying they argue more often than before the corona crisis.

Increased risk among disadvantaged children

Children whose parents had a lower level of education or were from a migrant background experienced the corona induced changes as extremely difficult. Both a lack of opportunities for retreat and a daily structure leads to quarrels and conflicts in the family especially in a crisis and increases the risk of mental health problems.