Predictors of Mental Health Worsening Among Children and Adolescents During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Ernesto Caffo; Lisa Asta; Francesca Scandroglio


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2021;34(6):624-630. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose of Review: Restrictions put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have significantly affected the lives of children and adolescents worldwide. School closure, home confinement and social distancing have the potential to negatively impact the mental health of this population. Several risk factors seem to contribute to worsening mental health of children and adolescents, with an increase of anxiety and depression symptoms. This review aims at exploring research available on risk factors that may worsen the mental health among children and adolescents during the pandemic.

Recent Findings: Some of these predictors in worsening the effects are social isolation, screen time and excessive social media use, parental stress and poor parent–child relationship, low socioeconomic status, preexisting mental health conditions and/or disabilities.

Summary: Further research is needed in order to understand mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as risk factors associated with negative consequences. New findings will help in targeting evidence-based interventions to prevent and mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of children and adolescents.


Coronavirus disease has significantly changed life and habits around the world. Measures taken to contain the spread of the virus had a severe impact on children's and adolescents' lives, potentially negatively affecting their mental health and well being. Several studies conducted at different stages of the pandemic and in different countries found high rates of depressive, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) symptoms in children and adolescents of all ages.[1] School closures and limited outdoor leisure time activities have strongly restricted youngsters' social interactions with their friends, which can be a risk factor for children's and adolescents' psychological well being, as peer relationships play a key role in their development.[2] Children have been confined at home with their parents for a relatively long period of time, which can be a protective factor for children's well being[3] but in some cases, this has led to frictions and distress.[1] Financial loss and uncertainty for the future because of the economic recession added further pressure on parents, potentially worsening children's well being.[2] Some children may, therefore, be more vulnerable than others to negative psychosocial effects of the pandemic and some factors seem to impact more than others on the well being of children and adolescents. The purpose of this brief review is to outline the major risk factors associated with the current pandemic that may worsen the mental health of children and adolescents.