Health anxiety symptoms in Danish children during the first lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic: an Odense Child Cohort study

Nord J Psychiatry. 2022 Jul;76(5):330-337. doi: 10.1080/08039488.2021.1970804. Epub 2021 Sep 30.


Purpose: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has a severe impact on the general population. During the pandemic, children may develop emotional and psychological symptoms, including increased worries about health and illness, known as health anxiety symptoms (HASs). We aimed to explore HAS in 7-9-year-old children from the Danish Odense Child Cohort (OCC) during the first COVID-19 lockdown period in Denmark, and to examine associations with potential risk factors.

Material and methods: OCC is a cohort of children born between 2010 and 2012, which originally recruited 2874 of 6707 pregnancies (43%). Among the current OCC population of 2430 singleton children, 994 participated in this study (response rate 40%). Children and their parents filled out questionnaires about child HAS, family exposure to COVID-19 infection and parental HAS. Adjusted odds ratios (aORs) were calculated between high score child HAS (≥90th percentile) and covariates by use of logistic regression.

Results: Most children (n = 686, 69%) reported few worries about their health. Children reporting high score HAS also had higher levels of internalizing symptoms at age 5; aOR 2.15 (1.20;3.85), p = .010, and higher levels of maternal and paternal HAS; aOR 2.40 (1.44;3.97), p = .001, and 2.00 (1.10;3.65), p = .023, whereas no association with child sex or familial exposure to COVID-19 was detected (n = 65, 6.5%).

Conclusions: High score child HAS during the first lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic was not associated with family exposure to COVID-19 infection, but to being a more anxious child a priori and to HAS in parents.

Keywords: COVID-19; child; coronavirus; family; health anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy