Children starting secondary school in Wales during the pandemic had significantly more symptoms of depression compared to their pre-Covid peers, research involving hundreds of schools and more than 120,000 pupils shows. School closures were “particularly damaging” with young people’s mental health worsening during periods of national lockdown, the report from Cardiff University says.
More than one in five children in year seven reported elevated symptoms of depression in September 2021, following the national lockdown and re-opening of schools in Wales. That was up from 15% in 2019, responses to the School Health Research Network (SHRN) Student Health and Wellbeing Survey, reveal.
There was also an overall increase in the percentage of children aged 11-16 reporting elevated symptoms of depression in 2021 (28%) compared to 24% in 2019. No change was found among boys, suggesting this rise was driven by increased rates among girls and a small number of gender non-binary students, the report’s authors said.