[Impact of social distancing for covid-19 on young people: type and quality of the studies found through a systematic review of the literature]

Recenti Prog Med. 2021 May;112(5):51e-67e. doi: 10.1701/3608.35881.
[Article in Italian]


Background: During the first semester 2020 almost all country implemented rigid measures of social distances, including schools closure, to limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Up to now, however, the efficacy of school closure to reduce the spread of the disease in the community still remain unclear and no much is known about the potential negative effects of such measures on physical health and psychological wellbeing of children and adolescents, mainly if protracted for long periods.

Objective: To summarize the most relevant data of a systematic review on the impact of the 2020 school closure and social distances measures implemented in response to covid-19 pandemic on youths physical health and psychological wellbeing. In the present paper we describe the review's methodology and the characteristics and methodological quality of the retrieved studies.

Methods: We searched on 11 international databases up to 1st September 2020 to retrieve cohort studies, cross sectional surveys, uncontrolled pre-post studies and modelling studies. Methodological quality of included studies has been assessed with validated checklists.

Results: Sixty-four studies have been included; 42 assessed the effect of social distances measure of physical health and 27 on psychological wellbeing. All the studies have been conducted during the first wave of pandemic and assessed the short-term effect of social distances measures implemented for relatively short periods. The 32.4% of the studies has been conducted in the UK, 20.3% in Italy, 12.5% in China, 10.9% in developing countries and 9.4% in the US. 37.5% of the studies were cohort studies, 40.6% cross sectional surveys, 19.7% uncontrolled studies and 1 was a modeling study. 59.6% of the studies has been rated as high quality. The most important weakness of the cross-sectional surveys and uncontrolled studies was the scarce representativeness of the sample while 96% of the cohort studies were judged as high quality.

Conclusions: A large number of acceptable quality studies have been published during the first months of pandemic to assess the impact of school closure and social distances measures on physical health and psychological wellbeing of youths. This highlights the relevance of the topic and the need to assess carefully the balance between harms and benefits of such measures in terms of actual reduction of transmission and youths' psychological and physical harms. Further studies are needed on the long-term effect of social distances measures extended over long periods.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Pandemics
  • Physical Distancing*
  • Quarantine
  • Schools