Findings showed that while school closures may reduce COVID-19 transmission, they were also associated with negative impacts on children's education, health, and wellbeing including increased anxiety, reduced learning, and increased obesity. These outcomes are likely to be of interest to policy makers and those planning future pandemic responses.
Billions of people around the world were directly or indirectly affected by school closures during the initial COVID-19 waves. Although school closures were used in most countries and multiple times as a potential method to reduce the likelihood of transmission and death of COVID-19, the effectiveness of closures and their potential longer-term impacts on school-aged children remain largely unknown.
The new study, published today in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, suggests that while there may have been some benefits in reducing community transmission of COVID-19, there were also clear harms to children, some of which, much like COVID infection itself, may continue to have longer term negative impacts.
Professor Kamal R Mahtani, senior author and GP & Professor of Evidence Based Healthcare, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford said: 'Our comprehensive review, which systematically included over 132 unique studies, highlights some of the global impacts of COVID-19 related school closures. While there may be some association with reduced community transmission, there is also notable associations of harm, including worsening physical and mental health, loss of learning and increased domestic violence. Healthcare leaders must deeply consider the balance of benefits and harms when implementing future policies on behalf of such a vulnerable part of our society.'