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Mental health and life satisfaction among 10–11-year-olds in Wales, before and one year after onset of the COVID-19 pandemic

Moore, Graham ORCID:, Anthony, Rebecca ORCID:, Angel, Lianna, Hawkins, Jemma ORCID:, Morgan, Kelly ORCID:, Copeland, Lauren ORCID:, Murphy, Simon ORCID:, Van Godwin, Jordan ORCID: and Shenderovich, Yulia ORCID: 2022. Mental health and life satisfaction among 10–11-year-olds in Wales, before and one year after onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Public Health 22 , 379. 10.1186/s12889-022-12752-6

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Background In many countries, including in the United Kingdom (UK), COVID-19 social distancing measures placed substantial restrictions on children’s lives in 2020 and 2021, including closure of schools and limitations on play. Many children faced milestones such as transition to secondary school having missed several months of face-to-face schooling in the previous academic years. Methods This paper examines change in mental health difficulties, life satisfaction, school connectedness, and feelings about transition to secondary school among 10–11-year-olds in Wales, UK, using data from repeat cross-sectional surveys before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants were 4032 10–11-year-old schoolchildren. The first cohort completed a school-based survey in 2019 (prior to introduction of social distancing measures), and the second in 2021 (following full return to school after two rounds of school closure). Results The percentage of children reporting elevated emotional difficulties rose from 17% in 2019 to 27% in 2021 (Odds Ratio = 1.65; 95%CI = 1.23 to 2.20). There was no evidence of increased behavioural difficulties (OR = 1.04; 95%CI = 0.73 to 1.46). There was a tendency toward declines in life satisfaction in all analyses, but this intersected the null (OR = 0.86; 95%CI = 0.70 to 1.07). Children reported a high degree of school connectedness before and after the pandemic, with no evidence of change in ratings of teacher relationships, pupil relationships or pupil involvement in school life. There was no evidence of impacts of the pandemic on children’s feelings about the transition to secondary school, with feelings becoming more positive as transition neared. Most findings were robust to a range of sensitivity analyses. Conclusions Supporting children’s emotional recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health priority requiring urgent and effective action at multiple levels of society. Maintaining connectedness to school through the pandemic may have played a role in preventing a steeper increase in child mental health difficulties.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1471-2458
Funders: Cancer Research UK
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 February 2022
Date of Acceptance: 7 February 2022
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2023 19:59

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