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Mental health of children and young people, 2020 survey

COVID-19     Data     iaptus CYP

The results from the latest Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2020 survey of trends in child mental health have been released by NHS Digital.

This is the first in a series of reports following the 2017 national survey of children’s mental health and looks at the mental health of children and young people between 5 and 22 years. The survey data was gathered in July 2020, during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and includes young people’s experiences of the changes to family life, education and anxieties during the pandemic.

Key findings of the survey;

  • The number of children aged 5 to 16 years meeting the criteria to be identified with a probable mental health disorder has increased by 5% since 2017. In 2020, one in six (16.0%) children were identified as having a probable mental disorder, up from one in nine (10.8%) in 2017.
  • Among young people aged 17 to 22 years, there was a noticeably higher likelihood of young women experiencing mental health issues, with 27.2% of young women and 13.3% of young men identified as having a probable mental disorder in 2020.
  • Children and young people with existing mental health issues were more likely to say that the lockdown had made their life worse.

The report indicates that factors associated with probable mental health disorders include; seeing arguments among parents in the household, poor sleep and lack of support from school. Those with a probable mental health disorder were also more likely to be in households that reported life getting worse during lockdown, or being behind with payments.

Questions specifically related to the pandemic were also asked of both children and young people, and their parents. Anxieties experienced by children around COVID-19 were (as reported by parents) primarily: family/friends catching COVID-19 and worries about missing school/work. Other cited, but lesser concerns, included catching the virus themselves, transmitting the infection or leaving the house.

This is a sobering report, which clearly highlights the mental health crisis that we are seeing amongst our children and young people. A recent survey by Young Minds also shows that the pandemic is exacerbating the pressures on many young people who were already struggling with their mental health. We must continue to identify and support those most at risk and make the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people a key consideration in all decisions made about education and healthcare during these uncertain times. 

NHS Digital notes that direct comparisons between 2017 and 2020 reports must consider changes in survey design.