A new research study ‘Mental Health of Children & Young People in England, 2020’ identified that 1 in 6 (16%) children and young people aged between 5 to 16 years have a “Probable Mental Health Disorder”. Increasing from 1 in 9 (10.8%) since 2017 and evident in both boys and girls.
Commissioned by NHS Digital and undertaken jointly by the Office for National Statistics, the National Centre for Social Research and the Universities of Cambridge and Exeter, this new study sampled 3,570 children and young people aged 5 to 22 years.
Children and young people were asked at face-to-face meetings about their “experience of family life, education and services, and worries and anxieties during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Researchers used the ‘Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, developed by the United Kingdom psychiatrist, Robert N. Goodman, to capture and evaluate responses.
“Responses from parents, children and young people were used to estimate the likelihood that a child might have a mental disorder” and classified as either; ‘unlikely’, ‘possible’ or ‘probable’.
Of those children aged 5 – 16 years with a probable mental health disorder, 30% had a parent who had experienced psychological distress and 28% were more likely to be living in a family who had reported problems with family functioning. These children were almost 5 times more likely to have not eaten a family meal all week during the COVID-19 pandemic and 1 in 4 had a parent furloughed. Loneliness, family falling behind with payments and the impact of COVID-19 on schooling, were all factors affecting these respondents.
Study responses from 17 – 22-year-olds, showed that 1 in 5 were identified with probable mental health disorders, of which 27% were young women and 13% were young men. COVID-19 and loneliness were issues highlighted which had a negative effect on their mental health, whilst lockdown had made their lives worse.
The NHS recognises in its Long-Term Plan that “mental health problems often develop early and, between the ages of 5 – 15” and “that half of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14.” It understands, “that prompt access to appropriate services enables children and young people experiencing difficulties to maximise their prospects for a healthy and happy life.”
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(Contains Public Sector Information Licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0)