Skip to content
  • General news
  • Media coverage
  • Research

New Emerging Evidence series explores the impact of coronavirus on young people’s mental health

The Evidence Based Practice Unit and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium launch a new series of rapid reviews.

In collaboration with the Child Outcomes Research Consortium, the Evidence Based Practice Unit at the Anna Freud Centre and UCL has launched Emerging Evidence, a series of rapid reviews to search for evidence from around the world during the current coronavirus pandemic. The series aims to help us understand the impact of the pandemic on children and young people’s mental health, by exploring some key questions:

  1. What are the key mental health challenges for children and young people during the coronavirus pandemic?
  2. Are there any particularly vulnerable groups?
  3. What might help children and young people to manage these challenges?

The second issue, launched this week, captures research published between 5th May 2020 and 24th May 2020. Key findings include that the nature and duration of the pandemic and lockdown measures are having significant impacts on children and young people’s mental health. While many are enjoying time at home with their families, research suggests that for some young people the pandemic is contributing to the onset and exacerbation of worry, fear, anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress.

The evidence reviewed also suggests that some children may be more vulnerable to the mental health impacts of the pandemic, including those with pre-existing mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions, as well as children in homes where domestic violence is a concern and children and young people living in poverty. Children from minority ethnic groups are more likely to experience poor health outcomes and, therefore, are more likely to experience mental health difficulties during the pandemic. In this sense, the evidence emerging indicates that the coronavirus is amplifying the inequalities associated with social determinants of mental and physical health.

The report includes recommendations for parents and carers, professionals and the wider community. Key amongst these are the importance of monitoring the impact of the pandemic on children and young people’s mental health, the need for those who are supporting young people to prioritise their own wellbeing, and joined-up working between all those with a role to play in supporting children and young people – from families and communities to health services and schools.

Jess Deighton, Director of Innovation, Evaluation and Dissemination at the Anna Freud Centre and  Professor in Child Mental Health and Wellbeing at UCL, said:

“We are concerned about the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children’s mental health. Researchers are trying to use existing evidence to understand what this potential impact is and how best to support young people at this time, but the conditions are so unusual that it is hard to find past research that feels relevant enough to the current context.

“While the evidence reviewed suggests that the scale of the challenge is great, we are encouraged by positive findings about opportunities to build stronger family bonds and relationships, the vigorous response of professionals, and the growing pool of shared learning and resources as communities mobilise to support young people’s mental health. Meaningfully engaging with young people’s voices is crucial when it comes to research and to conversations and decision-making about their care during this difficult time can be seen as an extension of the social responsibility that the pandemic has reminded us of.”

You can read Issue 2 and Issue 1 of the Emerging Evidence series, and find more research-focused resources about children and young people’s mental health and the coronavirus pandemic on the Anna Freud Centre website