While the need for more research remains, COVID-19 has hurt the mental health of young Canadians. (Black Press Media File)

COVID-19 has depressed mental health of Canadian youth

Lower mental health harms developmental skills, school performance and social relationships

While the need for more research remains, COVID-19 has hurt the mental health of young Canadians.

According to Statistics Canada, almost six out of 10 (57 per cent) of respondents aged 15 to 17 reported their mental health was somewhat worse or much worse than it was prior to the implementation of physical distancing measures.

This data — which Statistics Canada crowd-sourced — follows the Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth (CHSCY) released in 2019. It shows that mental health among youth declines with age, with girls more likely to report mental health issues than boys.

Consider the following numbers. Almost one in five youth aged 15 to 17 (17 per cent) described their mental health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor in 2019, more than double the rate for those aged 12 to 14 (seven per cent).

The survey also found more female youth reported fair or poor mental health compared with male youth. Girls aged 12 to 14 (10 per cent) were more than twice as likely as boys (four per cent) to report fair or poor mental health. The difference was even larger among youth aged 15 to 17, with 24 per cent of girls and 10 per cent of boys reporting fair or poor mental health.

RELATED: Household size, employment key factors in pandemic mental health among Canadians: survey

The 2019 survey also asked parents to rate the mental health of their children aged 1 to 17. It found that parents of younger children were less likely than parents of older children to report that their child’s mental health was fair or poor. Notably, the survey that parents are perhaps not the best judges of their children’s mental health as a comparison of answers given by parents and youth aged 12 to 17 finds. It shows that youth often do not share the same opinion.

While almost half of all cases (48 per cent) show a congruence between parents and youth, the remaining cases showed a “discrepancy” between the perceptions of parents and youth.

“When a difference occurred, almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of youth rated their mental health less positively than their parents did,” it reads. “These results suggest that parents may not always be aware of the mental health struggles experienced by their children.”

As the report says, the effects of poor mental health can touch upon many aspects of a child’s life. It can have “lasting impacts on their developmental skills, school performance and capacity to build social relationships,” it reads.


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