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During China’s COVID-19 Confinement, More Than a Fifth of Children Had Depressive Symptoms

May 07, 2020

During the COVID-19 home confinement in China’s Hubei province, more than 1 in 5 children reported experiencing depressive symptoms, according to a study published online in JAMA Pediatrics. 

The study included 1784 students in grades 2 through 6 in two primary schools in Wuhan and Huangshi, Hubei province. In Wuhan, students were restricted to home from January 23, 2020, to April 8, 2020. In Huangshi, home restriction lasted from January 24, 2020, to March 23, 2020. Children completed online surveys about their depressive and anxiety symptoms between February 28, 2020, and March 5, 2020.

After an average 33.7 days in home confinement, 22.6% of students reported depressive symptoms and 18.9% reported anxiety symptoms, as measured by the Children’s Depression Inventory–Short Form and the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders, according to the study.

COVID-19 Outbreak May Bring Significant Neuropsychiatric Burden

The risk of depressive symptoms was greater for students in Wuhan, compared with Huangshi; for students who were quite worried about being affected by COVID-19, compared with those who were slightly or not worried; and for those who were not optimistic about the epidemic, compared with those who were quite optimistic.

“As of April 9, 2020, the infection has caused 188 countrywide closures around the world and has affected 1,576,021,818 learners,” researchers wrote. “The caution about protecting the mental health of children in home confinement is warranted.”

Researchers suspect reductions in outdoor activities and social interaction played a role in increased depressive symptoms.

“A limitation is that our current study could not evaluate whether these outcomes will be long-lasting after the COVID-19 outbreak,” researchers wrote. “We will continue to follow up with these participants to improve our understanding about how long those outcomes will last.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Xie X, Xue Q, Zhou Y, et al. Mental health status among children in home confinement during the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak in Hubei province, China. JAMA Pediatrics. 2020 April 24;[Epub ahead of print].

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