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Experts "alarmed": children are under severe psychological stress

Anxiety disorders, self-harm and threats of suicide are increasing, the feeling of loneliness increases: after a year of pandemic, more and more children and adolescents are showing the psychological consequences of the exceptional year.

Even kindergarten children have more frequent stomach aches or cannot fall asleep. Self-harm and threats of suicide are increasing among adolescents. And children from families at risk of poverty suffer particularly from the corona restrictions: Two current studies clearly show that as the pandemic continues, the number of children with mental health problems has also increased.


Fifteen percent of children between the ages of three and twelve now have symptoms that are also clinically relevant: A year ago, during the first lockdown, this value was significantly lower at three percent.

This is shown by the second wave of surveys for a scientific study in Tyrol that observes the psychological well-being of children in lockdown. 703 families took part, 280 more than in the first survey in March 2020. In the second survey (in December and January), twice as many children as in the first lockdown stated that they were “worried or fearful”. According to the study, the number of anxiety and trauma symptoms in children has increased by 60 percent since March 2020.

Kathrin Sevecke, director of the Innsbruck University Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, is “alarmed” by these results: Here, “stressed and sometimes mentally ill children” would grow up. Sevecke therefore appeals to politicians to consider the psychological consequences for children when planning future measures. The school openings would have brought slight improvements - but they still could not compensate for the psychological stress.

Suicide threats

The situation in the now overcrowded child and adolescent psychiatric clinic is alarming: "A lot of crisis recordings" are recorded here. Two thirds of the acute cases, such as self-harming behavior or suicide threats, can be traced back to the pandemic. "We can treat all acute cases, but there is currently not enough capacity for longer hospital stays," says Sevecke.

sleep disorders

The everyday pandemic is not without its consequences even for kindergarten children: In this age group, somatic complaints such as abdominal pain or sleep disorders have more than doubled.
In the elderly, 45 percent more children show attention problems - in boys more often in the form of aggressive behavior or concentration disorders. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to report sleep disorders.


Volkshilfe Austria presented a “dramatic finding” on Tuesday: after the summer of 2020, it again surveyed 100 families at risk of poverty. It shows that the children's quality of life has "blatantly deteriorated". Twice as many parents as in the summer (21% of those surveyed) now rate their children's quality of life with a “Not Sufficient”, only five percent give it a “Very Good”.

“Never before” had so many families “desperately” asked Volkshilfe for support, says Volkshilfe director Erich Fenninger. “The extent to which the children and young people were affected by the crisis is unprecedented.” One of the children interviewed spoke of “toast time”: those last days of the month when there was only enough money for toast. The financial problems of their parents represent a further burden for the children, 20 percent are (also) worried about them.


Almost all children suffer from limited social opportunities, but those from poorer families particularly suffer, as they are often excluded anyway due to a lack of financial opportunities. Due to the corona crisis, six out of ten children (61%) from families at risk of poverty are more lonely than before the corona. 57 percent of parents now also rate their children as sadder.
Almost half of the children at risk of poverty (48%) also worry that they will lose their friends as a result of the pandemic - only school worries (49%) were mentioned more often.

(mpm / APA)