Health

Coronavirus-related Stress Has Long-term Consequences on Children’s Health

Image: UNICEF

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic now has over five million confirmed cases worldwide along with a rising death toll. Even though the crisis has been contained to an extent in some of the affected countries including Germany, Denmark, and New Zealand, the disease has continued to spread and impact more people.

In addition to the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, there are also increased chances of having other health conditions, according to health experts. The coronavirus pandemic can, in fact, pose multiple challenges for all people around the world.

For instance, some have suggested that it may take up to a year for people to be able to get elective surgeries in hospitals as the health systems of the majority of the countries have been strained significantly. Secondly, many of the other diseases are also being neglected.

One of the biggest negative consequences of the current health crisis which can affect all people alike is the rise of mental health conditions. The medical community has already highlighted how more and more people are having coronavirus-related stress which, in turn, leads to developing anxiety or depressive episodes in people.

Mental health diseases can greatly impact the life quality of the person in the long-term and even increase the risk of having conditions related to physical health. However, some experts have suggested that constant exposure to stress can affect younger age groups, particularly children, more than older people.

The assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Maryland, College Park, Natalie Slopen explains that various studies have highlighted that constant exposure to stress during childhood or adolescence can affect a child’s development.

Read also: First Wave of Coronavirus is not Over Year – WHO Warns 

Consequently, the child may face long-term consequences in the future not only on mental health but also on social behavior, education and learning, and even physical health. Slopen further adds that physical and mental health are actually directly related.

Research shows that the frequent release of stress hormones can lead to high levels of systemic inflammation in the body, which then contributes to major health conditions including heart disease and high blood pressure.

Additionally, there are also many indirect consequences of being exposed to stress. Children or adolescents who are constantly stressed are more likely to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms including smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, both of which are known risk factors for many diseases.

Read about the link between stress and development here.

Furthermore, researchers have also observed that children with high levels of stress also do not pursue higher education as often in comparison with children who are not exposed to stress during their childhood.

According to Slopen, education is an important factor as “We know that level of education is strongly correlated with income in adulthood, and that income is a really strong predictor of later risk for cardiovascular disease as well.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, children can be exposed to stress from the risk and fear of contracting the virus as well as substance abuse by parents, fighting amongst family members, and financial issues. Children with abusive parents and households.

Additionally, a report from 2017, which was co-authored by Slopen for the American Heart Association, showed that children from low-income families as well as those belonging to families of color are more likely to be exposed to stress during childhoods. Currently, the risk is far higher due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Children, unlike adults, do not have a lot of coping mechanisms or anyone to talk to especially at the moment when many of the countries are still in lockdown.

The psychologist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, Robin Gurwitch, says that this does not mean the coronavirus-related stress cannot be prevented. In fact, children are more likely to respond to the way their parents respond and cope with stress.

Therefore, parents’ behavior is an important factor in determining the child’s mental health as well as physical health in the future.

 

 

 

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Abeera I. Kazmi

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