Children's health measures worsening: 4 study findings

The number of children diagnosed with anxiety and depression increased significantly between 2016 and 2020, according to a study examining measures of children's well-being published March 14 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Researchers used annual data from the National Survey of Children's Health to examine trends in children's health-related measures, including changes between 2019 and 2020 that might be linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings are based on analysis of surveys covering more than 174,000 children. 

Four findings: 

1. During the five-year period, anxiety levels among children increased 29 percent and depression 27 percent. 

2. Researchers found an 18 percent drop in physical activity over the five-year period, and a 9 percent drop in visits for preventive care between 2019-20. 

3. Findings also showed the mental health of parents or caregivers declined 5 percent over the five-year period.

4. From 2019-20, behavioral problems increased 21 percent. 

"This study adds to the growing literature pointing to an exacerbation of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the urgent need to ensure children's access to timely healthcare services, promote healthy behaviors and support parents to strengthen family well-being," researchers said.

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