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Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child and adolescent mental, psychosocial, and physical health: a scoping review and interactive evidence map
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  • Liza Bialy,
  • Sarah A Elliott,
  • Alison Melton,
  • Samina Ali,
  • Shannon D Scott,
  • Lisa Knisley,
  • Lisa Hartling
Liza Bialy
University of Alberta

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Sarah A Elliott
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Alison Melton
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Samina Ali
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Shannon D Scott
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Lisa Knisley
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Lisa Hartling
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Introduction: Children and adolescents have been shown to manifest COVID-19 differently than adults, frequently displaying less severe symptoms or appearing asymptomatic as well as presenting lower risk of death. However, the effects of the pandemic, declared in March 2020, stem beyond the immediate infectious risk for this population. Our aim was to conduct a scoping review of the scientific literature and produce an online Interactive Evidence Map (IEM) highlighting the trends and available evidence around the unintended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s and adolescents’ mental, psychosocial and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: In April 2021 a research librarian developed a broad search using key terms associated with “coronavirus” and “children”. The search was run monthly in Medline, PsycInfo, CENTRAL and the Cochrane COVID‐19 Study Register. Using pre-defined eligibility criteria, each month studies were screened by one reviewer, with all exclusions verified by a second reviewer. Eligible studies relating to the unintended mental, psychosocial and physical health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic were categorized by focus, and data were extracted relating to study design, population characteristics (e.g., age, gender, race), and outcomes examined. Categorized studies and corresponding data were then uploaded into EPPI-Reviewer and transferred to EPPI-Mapper for visualization.
Results: From May 1st 2021 through April 30th 2022, over 14,500 citations were screened; 1,445 were specifically related to the mental, psychosocial and physical health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and adolescents. Ultimately, 826 studies were included in this scoping review and IEM. The majority of studies were cross-sectional (n=528; 64%) and reported on mental health outcomes, particularly anxiety (n=309; 37%) and depression (n=294; 36%). Psychosocial outcomes related to lockdowns such as loneliness (n=120; 15%) and impact on adolescent relationships with others (n=149; 18%) were also reported. Fewer studies examined the physical consequences of the pandemic, but those that did mostly focused on child abuse (n=73; 9%).
Conclusion: This scoping review used an innovative visualization tool to chart peer-reviewed articles and identify trends related to the unintended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental, psychosocial, and physical health consequences of the pandemic experienced by children and adolescents. The literature we mapped had a strong focus on mental health outcomes such as anxiety and depression. Children and adolescents have been significantly affected by the pandemic and future resources need to be directed towards ongoing mental health supports and management for this unique and vulnerable population.