Adolescents are vulnerable to stressful events. The global pandemic and subsequent health insecurity, social isolation, and school closings have posed significant challenges to students’ psychological well-being. Researchers from China gathered online survey data from 8,079 middle and high school students to investigate COVID-19’s psychological impacts.
The surveyed sample focused on 12-18 years old students from 21 provinces in China. Researchers adopted the patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9) and generalized anxiety disorder scale (GAD-7) to assess the level of depression and anxiety among Chinese adolescents in March. The survey achieved a high response rate of 99.3%.
Pre-COVID-19 meta-analysis has established a baseline depression rate of 15.4% among K-12 Chinese students. This study, however, concluded that the surveyed students experienced an alarmingly high rate of 43.7% mild to severe depression and 37.4% anxiety symptoms. Regression results suggested that characteristics such as rural, female, higher grade levels, and living in Hubei are associated with more stressful symptoms. This result is consistent with past literature which stated that people from poorer socio-economic backgrounds are at higher risk of mental health issues and women are more prone to depression and anxiety. The authors explained that students from higher grade levels have compounded pressure due to school leaving examinations.
When the pandemic abates, emotional disorders do not just conveniently disappear. Careful monitoring of students’ emotional needs, timely communications with guardians, and ready psychological interventions are essential tools to help combat post COVID-19 psychological crises.
Source (Open Access): Zhou, S. J., Zhang, L. G., Wang, L. L., Guo, Z. C., Wang, J. Q., Chen, J. C. … Chen, J. X. (2020). Prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of psychological health problems in Chinese adolescents during the outbreak of COVID-19. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 29, 749 – 758.