A study showed that financial turmoil during the pandemic negatively affected children’s mental health

A new study co-led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University investigators shows that the financial turmoil resulting from pandemic containment policies in the United States has taken a toll on children’s mental health. Mitigating these economic impacts may help protect children’s well-being if strict containment policies are needed in the future, according to the investigators.

The study, published March 13 in the JAMA Network is open, examined the relationship between school and financial disruptions to children’s sleep and mental health during COVID-19, accounting for a variety of policies related to the pandemic. This work builds on a previous publication by lead author Dr. Jun Xiao, assistant professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine, and senior author Dr. J. Jun-Man, Paul Janssen Professor of Translational Neuroscience (in Psychiatry and radiologists) at Columbia University, and colleagues reported that children’s psychological well-being was influenced by socioeconomic factors such as health care access, food insecurity, and vaccination rates.

Children’s mental health and exposure to stress in early life may have a long-term impact in later life. At the same time, containment policies are necessary as an emergency strategy in the event of a pandemic to prevent disease transmission.”

Dr. Jun Xiao, assistant professor of population health sciences, Weill Cornell Medicine

“We need to understand the impact of these policies on children’s mental health to better inform public policy and prepare for public health emergencies,” she said. “So, when we have containment policies in place, we can mitigate them.”

In the new study, Dr. Xiao, Dr. Mann, and investigators at the University of California, Berkeley (Dr. Timothy Brown, Lonnie Snowden, Julian Chun Zhong Zhao) conducted a nationwide study of 6,030 children ages 10 to 13 years old. They used data from the NIH-funded Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, a long-running study of children’s mental health in 21 US cities, that surveyed children and their parents about mental health and sleep between 2020 and 2021. The team also collected information on COVID-19 policy. 19 and COVID-19 incidence and unemployment rates to measure the relationship between children’s mental health outcomes and these factors during the pandemic.

The team found that financial distress, such as a parent losing a job or having lower wages, was associated with increased stress, sadness and anxiety related to COVID-19 – but not with sleep – in the children surveyed. . School disruption was not associated with changes in mental health or sleep, surprising the researchers. Dr Xiao said one possible explanation for this unexpected finding is if children had more protective factors such as increased parental care at home during the lockdown, which would help with mental health.

“Previous research has examined the associations of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, but little information has been published about its causal effects in children,” said Dr. Mann. “This study is the first longitudinal observational study in children to estimate corrected associations of school bias and financial distress with mental health and sleep.”

The study team consists of investigators with extensive experience. Dr.. Brown and Snowden have provided insights into health services research, particularly disparities in access to health care. Dr. Zhao contributed his expertise to the social care needs of children from underrepresented communities, and Dr. Mann provided important insights into the clinical implications.

The findings of this study highlight the negative impact of financial distress on children’s mental health, emphasize the need to address the economic, environmental, physical and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and underscore the importance of a multidisciplinary approach in developing evidence. based policy making.

Dr. Jyotishman Pathak, Chair of the Department of Health Informatics and the Francis and John Loeb Professor of Medical Informatics at Weill Cornell Medicine

Dr. Xiao plans to continue this research with a focus on those who face health disparities. She highlighted the need for research on the impact of pandemic-related hate and racism on the mental health of Asian Americans. It also wants to assess the impact of the COVID-19 policy on suicide and establish collaborations with community organizations to address social needs during the pandemic.

“We must not only take care of clinical needs, but also consider other factors that affect people,” she said. “To conduct the best science aimed at improving lives, we need to develop holistic approaches to public health that go beyond addressing the biological causes of disease and addressing the social determinants of health.”


Journal reference:

Xiao, Y et al. (2023) The politics of COVID-19, epidemic disruptions, and changes in children’s mental health and sleep in the United States. JAMA Network is open. doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.2716.

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