Infectious Disease

Necessary interventions for adolescents with pandemic-related fears

August 24, 2021

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Most adolescents in a cohort study conducted in Norway did well during the COVID-19 pandemic, but intervention strategies may need to identify adolescents who are disproportionately affected by fears related to the pandemic, the researchers found.

“New evidence suggests that there is a negative relationship between the pandemic and several areas of young people’s health and wellbeing, particularly mental and social health (e.g. depression, quality of life, loneliness) and physical activity,” Jasmina said Burdzovic Andreas, PhD, ScM, the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Drugs at the Norwegian Institute for Public Health, and colleagues wrote in JAMA Network Open.

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“Consequently, understanding how and to what extent the pandemic is linked to health and well-being outcomes in different subpopulations of young people remains a public health priority, with the associated need for quality, nuanced research” they continued. “Such research could also help clarify what strategies may be needed to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and its accompanying measures, and identify the groups in need of such strategies most.”

The researchers analyzed data collected from a diverse national sample of students who participated in the MyLife longitudinal study in Norway. They examined two cohorts with comparable socio-demographic characteristics, with one cohort comprising students who attended high school in 2020 and were considered as a COVID-19 cohort (n = 915). Those who attended high school in 2018 and 2019 (n = 1,621) formed the only pre-COVID-19 cohort. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated conditions in Norway served as exposures. Adolescents reported symptoms of depression via Patient Health Questionnaire-9 in grades 10 and 11, with high school in Norway starting in grade 11. Values ​​of 15 or higher indicated moderate / severe depression. They also reported the number of close friends, physical health, and participation in organized sports. Burdzovic Andreas and colleagues assessed cohort differences using a series of nested regression models that incrementally checked for sociodemographic covariates and grade 10 results.

The results showed high levels of pandemic fear in 158 (17.3%) adolescents in the COVID-19 cohort. Lower chances of participating in organized sports (adjusted OR [aOR] = 0.69; 95% CI, 0.56-0.87) was the significant difference between the two cohorts; However, sub-analyzes comparing adolescents with anxiety during the pandemic with adolescents in the pre-COVID-19 cohort showed an increased risk of developing symptoms of depression at the clinical level (aOR = 2.17; 95% CI 1.39- 3.37) and poor physical health (aOR = 1.53; 95% CI, 1.01-2.31) in those with high pandemic anxiety.

“Additional research is needed to identify risk factors and traits associated with increased stress and anxiety in adolescents during the pandemic,” wrote Burdzovic Andreas and colleagues. “Public health strategies cannot move forward without identifying youth who are concerned about infection, school, and other health and social consequences of the pandemic, and without understanding whether those concerns are perceived or real (and if so, why ) and what other risk factors there may be associated with them. Such high-risk groups of young people may be disproportionately affected by the pandemic and may require special strategies that address their mental and physical health needs. “

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