Children from low income backgrounds show elevated mental health difficulties throughout lockdown

Emotional difficulties were consistently elevated among children and young people from low income households over a month of lockdown compared to those from higher income households.

The most recent report from the Co-SPACE (COVID-19 Supporting Parents, Adolescents, and Children in Epidemics)ástudy highlights that:

  • Emotional and restless/attention difficulties (and behaviour difficulties for primary school aged children) were consistently elevated among children and young people from low income households over a month of lockdown compared to those from higher income households, with around two and a half times as many children experiencing significant problems in low income households.
  • Parents and carers from low income households reported that their children (aged 4 to 16 years) had higher levels of emotional difficulties, such as feeling unhappy, worried, being clingy and experiencing physical symptoms associated with worry than those from higher income households. Their children were also more fidgety and restless and had greater difficulty paying attention. Those with younger, primary school aged children also reported that their children were experiencing higher levels of behaviour difficulties, including temper tantrums, arguments and not doing what they were being asked to do by adults than those from higher incomes.

Other findings were that children and young people from single and multiple adult households were generally found to have similar levels of emotional, behavioural and restless/attention difficulties. However, when looked at on their own, primary school aged children from single adult households were reported as having more emotional difficulties than those from multiple adult households.

The study also highlighted that over the course of lockdown, there were increases for children of primary school age in emotional difficulties, behavioural difficulties and restlessness and attention difficulties, with the proportion of children having significant (clinical level) difficulties, increasing by as much as 35%. However, in young people of secondary school age, there was a reduction in emotional difficulties, no change in behavioural difficulties and a slight increase in restlessness/inattention.


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