The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented changes in the lives of 1.6 billion children and adolescents. First non-representative studies from China, India, Brazil, the US, Spain, Italy, and Germany pointed to a negative mental health impact. The current study is the first nationwide representative study to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and mental health of children and adolescents in Germany from the perspective of children themselves. A representative online survey was conducted among n = 1586 families with 7- to 17-year-old children and adolescents between May 26 and June 10. The survey included internationally established and validated instruments for measuring HRQoL (KIDSCREEN-10), mental health problems (SDQ), anxiety (SCARED), and depression (CES-DC). Results were compared with data from the nationwide, longitudinal, representative BELLA cohort study (n = 1556) conducted in Germany before the pandemic. Two-thirds of the children and adolescents reported being highly burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic. They experienced significantly lower HRQoL (40.2% vs. 15.3%), more mental health problems (17.8% vs. 9.9%) and higher anxiety levels (24.1% vs. 14.9%) than before the pandemic. Children with low socioeconomic status, migration background and limited living space were affected significantly more. Health promotion and prevention strategies need to be implemented to maintain children's and adolescents' mental health, improve their HRQoL, and mitigate the burden caused by COVID-19, particularly for children who are most at risk.
Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Children and adolescents; Depression; Mental health; Quality of life.
© 2021. The Author(s).