German study: Pandemic takes psychological toll on third of children

Almost one in three children in Germany are suffering from mental health problems less than a year into the coronavirus crisis, according to a study released on Wednesday.

In a second assessment conducted as part of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf’s COPSY study, researchers found that fear and anxiety were on the rise, while symptoms of depression and psychosomatic complaints were also increasingly observed.

Children’s quality of life in Germany – which remains under a months-long lockdown in which schools have been forced to close – has declined, said Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer, who led the study.

From mid-December until mid-January, over 1,000 children and teenagers filled out an online questionnaire for the study, as well as over 1,600 parents. The research focused on children aged 7 to 17.

Children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds or those from migrant families were found to be under particular psychological strain.

“Our findings once again show that whoever was in good shape before the pandemic, had learned structures and felt safe and supported in the family, they will get through the pandemic well,” Ravens-Sieberer said.

She called for “more reliable concepts to support children from at-risk families and strengthen their mental wellbeing.”

To that end, the specialist in child public health research urged schools to stay in close touch with pupils during the lockdown.

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