Mental health symptoms in children and adolescents during COVID-19 in Australia

Sicouri, Gemma and March, Sonja ORCID: and Pellicano, Elizabeth and De Young, Alex C. and Donovan, Caroline L. and Cobham, Vanessa E. and Rowe, Arlen ORCID: and Brett, Simon and Russell, Jeremy K. and Uhlman, Laura and Hudson, Jennifer (2022) Mental health symptoms in children and adolescents during COVID-19 in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. pp. 1-17. ISSN 0004-8674

Text (Published - Article First Version)
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.

Download (233kB) | Preview


Objective: COVID-19 has led to disruptions to the lives of Australian families through social distancing, school closures, a temporary move to home-based online learning, and effective lockdown. Understanding the effects on child and adolescent mental health is important to inform policies to support communities as they continue to face the pandemic and future crises. This paper sought to report on mental health symptoms in Australian children and adolescents during the initial stages of the pandemic (May to November 2020) and to examine their association with child/family characteristics and exposure to the broad COVID-19 environment. Methods: An online baseline survey was completed by 1327 parents and carers of Australian children aged 4 to 17 years. Parents/carers reported on their child’s mental health using five measures, including emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention, anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms. Child/family characteristics and COVID-related variables were measured. Results: Overall, 30.5%, 26.3% and 9.5% of our sample scored in the high to very high range for emotional symptoms, conduct problems and hyperactivity/inattention, respectively. Similarly, 20.2% and 20.4% of our sample scored in the clinical range for anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms, respectively. A child’s pre-existing mental health diagnosis, neurodevelopmental condition and chronic illness significantly predicted parent-reported child and adolescent mental health symptoms. Parental mental health symptoms, having a close contact with COVID-19 and applying for government financial assistance during COVID-19, were significantly associated with child and adolescent mental health symptoms. Conclusion: Our findings show that Australian children and adolescents experienced considerable levels of mental health symptoms during the initial phase of COVID-19. This highlights the need for targeted and effective support for affected youth, particularly for those with pre-existing vulnerabilities.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 49962
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current – Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Psychology and Wellbeing (1 Jan 2022 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Resilient Regions - Centre for Health Research (1 Apr 2020 -)
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2022 00:03
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2022 01:43
Uncontrolled Keywords: Child, adolescent, COVID-19, pandemic, mental health
Fields of Research (2020): 32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3213 Paediatrics > 321302 Infant and child health
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420601 Community child health
32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3213 Paediatrics > 321301 Adolescent health
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200409 Mental health
Funding Details:
Identification Number or DOI:

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only