Wasn’t the lockdown supposed to protect people?

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lockdown and mental health

Since 2019 the topic that people used to worry about the most was how to escape from COVID-19, so governments began ordering lockdowns. However many studies confirm that lockdown and mental health issues are strictly related. In fact, it caused the development of psychological diseases, eating disorders, premature aging of the adolescent brain, increasing of suicidal rates (suicide, suicidal behaviours, and suicidal ideation).

Since December 2019 a new outbreak of coronavirus has been spread from Wuhan, China, causing a pandemic that has affected all continents, resulting in death of nearly 383000 people.

To contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) have been the key policy for most countries, the principal goal of these organisations was to reduce transmission without pharmaceutical options, in order to lower resultant death, diseases, and health system overload.

Initially we have noticed that lockdowns were able to reduce the virus’ transmission, but after months of strict lockdowns’ rules, this impact started declining over the time.

The fading of the quarantine effects may be due to non-compliance with anti-covid rules, which included a restriction of physical mobility;

Lockdown and Mental Health

The mobility reduction brought to people many health problems.

Adolescents are a very vulnerable group and they are experiencing loads of transitions caused by the lockdowns which consequences are chronic and acute stress, worry for their family, unexpected bereavements, sudden school break and consequently interrupted education, increased time of access to the internet and social media, worry for the economic future of their family and their country, as well as causing social and economic costs, including increased unemployment, social isolation and related psychological outcomes.

Lockdown and mental health, school class

Mental health issues

Some independent researches have conducted various studies from which they extracted data about children and teenagers’ mental health and they found out that:

  • In 57.4% of the studies examined, anxiety symptoms were aggravated.
  • The prevalence of anxiety disorders ranges from 1.8% to 49.5%.
  • The prevalence of major depression increased from 10% to 27%.
  • Suicide attempts increased 1.74 times.
  • Sleep disturbances increased from a base rate of 40% up to 62%.

The adolescent population is particularly at risk of these disorders, because the use of the internet to make up for the lack of outdoor activities. In addition, spending more time at home makes them targets for parental violence.

Eating disorders

Due to the restrictions imposed on people’s movements and changes about the food’s access during the day, the lockdown had a big impact on people’s eating habits, exercise habits and self body image.

Lockdown and mental health, eating disorders

Most of the people during the pandemic has reported changes in the perception of hunger, 17% of these people reported a reduction in appetite while 34% an increase in appetite. Research says that in the first six months of the pandemic, cases of eating disorders increased by 40% compared to the first six months of the previous year.

The lack of differentiation between school or work place and home, made people to want eat more, the activity that used to take the most of the time during a day was planning the meal time with the family, this increased the contact with food and in some people this may have had a negative impact on the risk of developing eating disorders.

Eating disorders are a silent, exhausting and pervading evil. Some consequences of eating disorders are the following (in addition to the possible and non-beneficial change of the body): anxiety, panic attacks and then closure towards the surrounding world, rejection of the outside world and loneliness because of the fear of judgement, of giving concern, but most of all in order not to suffer pressure.

What about the children that had to grow up in the middle of the pandemic?

They are called “suspended generation” because they had been through loads of problems due to the loss of interpersonal relationships with peers and educators. The foreclosure of school education, overexposure to the Internet, poor practice of language with family members, and reduction of physical activity, has caused the collapse of learning, lack of integration opportunities, major changes in the growth path and psycho-physical disorders. All the crucial moments and all the first experiences of the children have been distorted.

Suicidal phenomenon

A study by the Departments of Public and Pediatric Health Sciences and Clinical and Biological Sciences of the University of Turin investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the suicidal phenomenon in young people. The research studied the suicidal phenomenon in people under the age of 19, comparing the same phenomenon in the pre and post pandemic period.

During the pandemic, 1 in 6 boys had at least one suicidal thought, and 1 in 33 attempted suicide, with a 10% increase in the number of suicides in 2020 compared to 2019. Cases of suicidal ideation and attempted suicide have also increased compared to the pre-pandemic period. Since the second half of 2020, there has been an increase of 15% in cases of suicidal ideation and 26% in suicidal behavior.

“We already know from global research that the pandemic has adversely affected mental health in youth, but we didn’t know what, if anything, it was doing physically to their brains,” says psychologist Ian Gotlib, Director of the Stanford Neurodevelopment, Affect, and Psychopathology (SNAP) Laboratory in California.

Brain aging

The stress of living through pandemic lockdowns has accelerated aging in the brains of teenagers.

A team had look at the MRI (magnetic resonance imagine ) scans of 81 children’s brain before the pandemic and 82 during the pandemic, and they showed that the brain aging process had seemingly accelerated in the post-pandemic group. In fact lockdown periods of less than a year had resulted in the equivalent of three years of brain aging in the second selection of youngsters. Researchers also noticed a poorer mental health in the pandemic group, though it’s not clear if that’s directly related to brain age.

Lockdown and mental health, brain aging

The team plans to continue tracking the same group of people as they get older, looking out for further changes in brain structure and any mental health complications that might develop.

The pandemic is a global phenomenon – there’s no one who hasn’t experienced it, there’s no real control group

Ian Gotlib

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