Indirect adverse effects of COVID-19 on children and youth's mental, physical health

June 25, 2020

Despite reports that children and young people may be less likely to get coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) than older adults, there may be substantial indirect adverse effects of the disease on their physical and mental health, according to an analysis in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.201008

"While children and young people seem rarely to be victims of severe COVID-19, we should anticipate that they will experience substantial indirect physical, social and mental health effects related to reduced access to health care and general pandemic control measures," says Dr. Neil Chanchlani, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.

The authors describe a range of potential adverse effects and contributing factors as well as mitigation strategies for health care providers and health systems.

Adverse effects include"Delays in bringing children and young people to medical attention may be due to parental fears of exposure to COVID-19 in hospitals or on public transit, lack of childcare for other children, lack of access to primary care due to closures, or changes to hospital visitation policies," says Dr. Peter Gill, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, Canada.

However, reduced social contact because of travel and quarantine restrictions may reduce transmission of other commonly acquired illnesses.

Factors affecting social and mental health""We need to better understand what goes into the decisions families make regarding the complex needs of their children during this pandemic and how we can better support them," says Francine Buchanan, a coauthor and Research Patient & Family Engagement Coordinator at SickKids. "Both practical and personal considerations need to be taken into account."

The authors suggest several mitigation strategies, including"We owe it to our children and young people to proactively measure the COVID-19 pandemic's indirect effects on their health and to take steps to mitigate the collateral damage," urge the authors.

"Addressing the indirect effects of COVID-19 on the health of children and young people" is published June 25, 2020.
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Canadian Medical Association Journal

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