The COVID-19 pandemic can have a serious impact on children and adolescents’ mental health. We focused on studies exploring its traumatic effects on young people in the first 18 months after that the pandemic was declared, distinguishing them also according to the type of informants (self-report and other-report instruments).
We applied a meta-analytic approach to examine the prevalence of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and psychological distress among children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic, considering the moderating role of kind of disorder and/or symptom, type of instrument, and continent.
We used PsycINFO, PubMed, and Scopus databases to identify articles on the COVID-19 pandemic, applying the following filters: participants until 20 years of age, peer-review, English as publication language. Inclusion required investigating the occurrence of disorders and/or symptoms during the first 18 months of the pandemic. The search identified 26 publications.
The meta-analysis revealed that the pooled prevalence of psychological disorders and/or symptoms for children and adolescents, who were not affected by mental health disturbances before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, was .20, 95% CI [.16, .23]. Moreover, we found a moderating role of type of instrument: occurrence was higher for self-report compared to other-report instruments.
The study presented an analysis of the psychological consequences for children and adolescents of the exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic, soliciting further research to identify factors underlying resilience. Notwithstanding limitations such as the small number of eligible articles and the fact that we did not examine the role of further characteristics of the studies (such as participants’ age or design), this meta-analysis is a first step for future research documenting the impact of such an unexpected and devastating disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic.