European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
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This large cross-sectional study examined the impact of COVID-19 emergency measures on child/adolescent mental health for children/adolescents with and without pre-existing psychiatric diagnoses. Using adapted measures from the CRISIS questionnaire, parents of children aged 6–18 (N = 1013; 56% male; 62% pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis) and self-reporting children/adolescents aged 10–18 (N = 385) indicated changes in mental health across six domains: depression, anxiety, irritability, attention, hyperactivity, and obsessions/compulsions. Changes in anxiety, irritability, and hyperactivity were calculated for children aged 2–5 years using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. COVID-19 exposure, compliance with emergency measures, COVID-19 economic concerns, and stress from social isolation were measured with the CRISIS questionnaire. Prevalence of change in mental health status was estimated for each domain; multinomial logistic regression was used to determine variables associated with mental health status change in each domain. Depending on the age group, 67–70% of children/adolescents experienced deterioration in at least one mental health domain; however, 19–31% of children/adolescents experienced improvement in at least one domain. Children/adolescents without and with psychiatric diagnoses tended to experience deterioration during the first wave of COVID-19. Rates of deterioration were higher in those with a pre-exiting diagnosis. The rate of deterioration was variable across different age groups and pre-existing psychiatric diagnostic groups: depression 37–56%, anxiety 31–50%, irritability 40–66%, attention 40–56%, hyperactivity 23–56%, obsessions/compulsions 13–30%. Greater stress from social isolation was associated with deterioration in all mental health domains (all ORs 11.12–55.24). The impact of pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis was heterogenous, associated with deterioration in depression, irritability, hyperactivity, obsession/compulsions for some children (ORs 1.96–2.23) but also with improvement in depression, anxiety, and irritability for other children (ORs 2.13–3.12). Economic concerns were associated with improvement in anxiety, attention, and obsessions/compulsions (ORs 3.97–5.57). Children/adolescents with and without pre-existing psychiatric diagnoses reported deterioration. Deterioration was associated with increased stress from social isolation. Enhancing social interactions for children/adolescents will be an important mitigation strategy for current and future COVID-19 waves.