A study from Mediclinic City Hospital reveals the alarming, easy-to-miss impact that home confinement during Covid-19 is having on children
26 October 2020| Last updated on 2 November 2020
More than 650 parents were included in the study
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, over 40 million people have been infected and more than 1 million have died, according to official figures.
Measures to try to stop the spread of the virus included school closures and online teaching to keep education going, affecting more than one billion children and adolescents around the world, including the UAE.
Home confinement and online schooling resulted in alarming impacts on both children and adults.
As children are developing individuals and are thus sensitive to environmental and social changes, the confinement significantly affected their quality of life.
For them, schools are considered as a life place, not just for education and learning but for social and sensory brain development and interaction as well. Therefore, the impact may even be worse and last for a long time.
Dr. Sam Hassan, Consultant Paediatrican at Mediclinic City Hospital and Adjunct Associate Professor at Mohammed Bin Rashid University Of Medicine and Health Sciences conducted a study about the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on children, their education, and parents.
1. Behaviour, mental and financial difficulties
More than 72% of children were reported to have behavioural problems which were not shown before the lockdown.
More than half (57%) of the children were reported to have new mental distress such as anxiety while 14% were affected financially due to one or both parents losing a job or being on reduced pay.
2. Hyperactivity, inattentiveness, loneliness and depression
Both hyperactivity and lonely feelings were equally reported in 36% of children.
Inattentiveness and depression were reported in 18% of children.
3. Impact on physical activity
The majority of parents (72%) reported a significant impact on children’s physical activities, mainly in due to lack of space at home and others due to stopping outdoor activities such as sports.
4. Troubling sleeping
At least 41% of children suffered from sleep difficulties that didn't have before the mandatory Covid-19 lockdown.
Most reported difficulties are related to:
- Disrupted sleep
- Sleeping and awaking late
- Sleeping more or sleeping less
- Sleep talking
- Irregular sleep patterns
5. Problems eating
Affected eating habits are one of the most important newly reported impacts of lockdown.
Around half of parents (48%) reported eating difficulties in their children that emerged during lockdown. Some of the children have more than one eating problem.
The most commonly reported were junk food, food refusal and picky eating.
6. Psychological distress without good support
Despite mental, behavioural, sleep, eating problems and other impacts, 82% of parents reported no psychological support from professionals such as a psychologist, educational counsellor or others.
7. Missing schools and friends:
Over 75% of children have frequently told their parents that they're missing they miss school, irrespective of age, gender and culture.
8. COVID-19 infection in family and the impacts
About 9% of surveyed parents reported a Covid-19 infection in one or more of their immediate family living in the same house.
Negative effects on children were reported more when there was a confirmed Coronavirus infection in their family.
Taking in consideration the Covid infection (COVID% v No-COVID%), the results were: behaviour (72% v 52%), sleep (72% v 38%), eating (72% v 45%) and depression (37% v 16%).
9. Decline in the number of vaccinated children
One of the most affected aspects during the lockdown was bringing children for vaccination in the local health centres, hospitals or clinics.
In this study, the team assessed this issue by asking parents a direct question if the lockdown interfered with vaccinations and development assessment.
31% of parents answered that fear of getting infected by Covid-19 made them postpone their children’s vaccinations and/or other health appointments.
When parents were asked if they are confident to visit clinics and health facilities for vaccinations and assessment after lockdown was lifted, still one third of them (32%) answered that the fear of infection was still the main cause for their reluctance to visit a medical centre.
According to the WHO and UNICEF data of 15 July 2020, confinement during lockdowns and fear of attending for vaccinations or closure of clinics resulted in an alarming decline in the number of children receiving lifesaving vaccines worldwide.
There is a substantial drop in the number of children completing three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3). This is the first time in 28 years that the world could see a reduction in DTP3 coverage which is the marker for immunisation coverage within and across countries.
There was serious drop in MMR vaccinations added to the decline noticed over many years, and increased spread of measles, whopping cough and mumps across the world.
According to the WHO report, 75% of 82 countries reported a disruption of their vaccination programme due to Covid-19. It is therefore very important for health professionals and maybe schools to monitor children's’ vaccinations.
10. Visiting public places with kids
More than 70% of parents were reluctant to public places such as shopping malls, parks, etc. with their children and/or sending children for sports or other facilities, including schools.
11. Studying from home
During the lockdown and the strict health and safety regulations, schools went online, and education was provided distantly from homes.
The research team asked parents about their experience with e-learning and to score such experience between 1 and 5 where 1 is very poor and 5 is excellent.
Most parents were satisfied with the level of online schooling as 65% scored it 3-5 and only 35% scored it less than 3.
Some parents commented that online schooling produced more work for parents as parents took the role of the teacher. Some mums and dads were tired, did not know how to teach, or struggled to keep their children focused.
A few parents felt that the whole online learning system was introduced in a rush, leaving a large burden on parents. However, others reported that distance learning offered one to one teaching which gave positive outcomes.
12. Other long-term impacts
When asked if the home confinement due to Covid-19 may lead to long term impacts such as boredom, fear of infection and/or stress, more than half of parents believe it may cause long term impact that may continue beyond the virus.