Background: The emerging of psychological problems triggered by COVID-19 particularly in children have been extensively highlighted and emphasized, but original research in this respect is still lagging behind. Therefore, we designed this study to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and the effectiveness and attitudes towards online education among Chinese children aged 7-15 years.
Methods: A detailed questionnaire, comprising of 62 questions was designed and parents or caretakers of 7 to 15 years old children were invited to participate via WeChat, a multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app, which is widely used by the Chinese population. A total of 668 parents across different regions of China were included.
Results: During COVID-19 pandemic, 20.7 and 7.2% children report experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PTSD and SMFQ-P scores are significantly higher in middle school and boarding school students compared to primary and day school students. Multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that school system and province of origin are factors significantly associated with developing PSTD symptoms. 44.3% respondents feel online education is effective in gaining knowledge and improving practical and communications skills. 78.0% believe the online education system is efficient. Overall 79.8% respondents are satisfied and children can adapt to this new education system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we found 1 in five children have PTSD and 1 in 14 children have depressive symptoms.
Conclusion: In summary, COVID-19 epidemic has caused PTSD and depression symptoms among Chinese children aged 7 to 15 years. In general, a large proportion of respondents are satisfied with online education, but still a substantial proportion of students are not comfortable with this new form of learning. Authorities should optimize online education systems and implement effective interventions to cope with the psychological effects of COVID-19 on children, as it is affecting the global population and remains uncertain when it will end.
Keywords: COVID-19; Children; China; Mental health; Online education.