Rapid Systematic Review: The impact of social isolation and loneliness on the mental health of children and adolescents in the context of COVID-19

M E Loades*, E Chatburn, N Higson-Sweeney, S Reynolds, R Shafran, A Brigden, C Linney, M McManus, C Borwick, E Crawley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Objective: Disease containment of COVID-19 has necessitated widespread social isolation. We aimed to establish what is known about how loneliness and disease containment measures impact on the mental health in children and adolescents.

Method: For this rapid review, we searched MEDLINE, PSYCHINFO, and Web of Science for articles published between 01/01/1946 and 03/29/2020. 20% of articles were double screened using pre-defined criteria and 20% of data was double extracted for quality assurance.

Results: 83 articles (80 studies) met inclusion criteria. Of these, 63 studies reported on the impact of social isolation and loneliness on the mental health of previously healthy children and adolescents (n=51,576; mean age 15.3) 61 studies were observational; 18 were longitudinal and 43 cross sectional studies assessing self-reported loneliness in healthy children and adolescents. One of these studies was a retrospective investigation after a pandemic. Two studies evaluated interventions. Studies had a high risk of bias although longitudinal studies were of better methodological quality. Social isolation and loneliness increased the risk of depression, and possibly anxiety at the time loneliness was measured and between 0.25 to 9 years later. Duration of loneliness was more strongly correlated with mental health symptoms than intensity of loneliness.

Conclusions: Children and adolescents are probably more likely to experience high rates of depression and probably anxiety during and after enforced isolation ends. This may increase as enforced isolation continues. Clinical services should offer preventative support and early intervention where possible and be prepared for an increase in mental health problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1218-1239.e3
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Volume59
Issue number11
Early online date3 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

Structured keywords

  • Covid19

Keywords

  • loneliness
  • pandemic
  • COVID-19
  • disease containment
  • mental health

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