The effects of lockdown on children’s isolation are likely to have a lasting effect, a new review has found.
A Bath University review of evidence – in 60 pre-existing, peer-reviewed studies – about the mental health impacts of loneliness on children and young people, concluded that there could be a spike in demand for mental health services in the years to come.
“Children and adolescents are likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety long after current lockdown and social isolation ends, and clinical services need to be prepared for a future spike in demand,” the authors said.
According to the review, young people who are lonely might be as much as three times more likely to develop depression in the future, and the impact of loneliness and depression could last for at least 9 years.
There is also evidence that duration of loneliness may be more important than the intensity of loneliness in increasing the risk of future depression among young people.
Lone child sitting hugging knees
Dr Maria Loades, clinical psychologist from the Department of Psychology at the university, said the research was important information for policy-makers, health planners and also teachers:
“For our youngest and their return to school from this week, we need to prioritise the importance of play in helping them to reconnect with friends and adjust following this intense period of isolation.”
The review is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.