Researchers led by Professor Willem Kuyken at Oxford University's Department of Psychiatry compared the mental health difficulties and well-being of thousands of UK secondary school pupils who experienced three lockdowns, with a group of students who participated in the same study before the coronavirus pandemic emerged in 2020.
- Young people who went through the pandemic were more likely to experience increased depression, social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and worsening general mental well-being.
- While mental health declined in both groups over time, those in the pandemic experienced a worsening in their mental health:
- Cases of depression increased 8.5% in those going through the pandemic versus 0.3% in the pre-pandemic group.
- Cases of high/very high social, emotional and behavioural difficulties increased 7.9% in the pandemic cohort vs 3.5% in the pre-pandemic cohort.
- Cases of possible/probable mental health difficulties increased 12.8% in the pandemic group versus 4.5% in the pre-pandemic group.
- Girls and those who were initially at low risk of mental health difficulties experienced greater deteriorations during the pandemic.
- Having a positive school climate, good relationships at home and having a friend to turn to for support during lockdown were protective factors.
- Even partial school attendance during lockdown was better for the subsequent adjustment when coming back to school than no attendance at all.