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No exercise, and hardly any social contacts: Bonn pediatrician fears serious consequences from Corona crisis

No exercise, and hardly any social contacts : Bonn pediatrician fears serious consequences from Corona crisis

Homeschooling, hardly any personal contact with friends and too little sport: For many children, the Corona crisis is a major burden. Bonn pediatrician Rainer Ganschow fears long-term negative consequences as a result.

Homeschooling, hardly any personal contact with friends and too little sport: For many children, the Corona crisis is a major burden. Bonn pediatrician Rainer Ganschow fears long-term negative consequences as a result. 

Almost one in three children in Germany is showing psychological problems just under a year after the start of the Corona pandemic. This is the result of a survey of the so-called Copsy Study of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. Children and adolescents are suffering from the lockdown: according to the study, worry and anxiety as well as depressive symptoms and psychosomatic complaints such as headaches or abdominal pain have increased.

Professor Rainer Ganschow, head of the Department of General Pediatrics at Bonn University Hospital, is concerned about the current situation of children. "The Copsy study reflects only part of the problems," he says. He considers it particularly worrying that children in the current situation move far too little and spend even more time than previously in front of screens. Added to this, he says, is the lack of contact with friends. "Everyone is telling me about problems within the family right now," says Ganschow, who has contact with numerous families at Children's Hospital. Homeschooling and home offices are stressing many families, he says, and arguments among parents are an added burden for many children. 

Through all these factors, he fears various long-term consequences for the children. For example, the lack of contact with friends can have a negative impact on children's social skills, Ganschow says. The lack of exercise could also exacerbate the already existing problem of childhood obesity. "Young people are becoming more comfortable," Ganschow says. In his experience, as club sports are eliminated, most won't play sports for balance. Ultimately, he says, the pandemic for children exacerbates the very problems that already existed in our society: unhealthy eating, too little exercise and too much media consumption. 

In addition, the physician sees a completely different problem: The isolation of small children is dangerous for the development of their immune system. The immune system is formed in the first three years of life, and during this time it is important for children to come into contact with various pathogens. If young children had little contact and thus hardly ever experienced any illnesses, this could have a negative effect on their immune system and promote allergies in the future, for example. 

Not every mental abnormality becomes a mental disorder

The Copsy study sees a difference in the effects of the pandemic depending on the social background of the children. Children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and with a migration background are particularly affected by the effects. 

The Copsy study is reportedly the first of its kind nationwide. From mid-December to mid-January, more than 1,000 children and adolescents and more than 1,600 parents took part via online questionnaires. The survey covered children and adolescents between the ages of seven and 17. Compared to the first survey, the numbers have increased: 85 percent of the children surveyed feel burdened by the Corona crisis, according to the study. In June, only 71 percent felt emotional distress. Seven out of ten children feel their quality of life has been reduced, compared to six out of ten in the first survey - and three out of ten before the pandemic.

In addition, according to the study, children's diets have become unhealthier and the consumption of sweets has increased. Media consumption has also increased. Of course, this also has to do with online teaching. Homeschooling is now perceived by students as much more strenuous than it was in the early summer. Children and young people also report more disputes with their parents. Parents therefore urgently need perspective and support, says Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer, head of the Copsy study.

She does not want to "overdramatise" the results of the second survey, the researcher emphasizes. "Because not every mental abnormality becomes a mental disorder. But we have to take them very seriously." Even if school is currently only possible to a limited extent, it must be ensured that the focus is not only on learning success, but that contact with the children is maintained. They need encouragement and motivation.

Original text: Leandra Kubiak (with material by the dpa)

Translation: Mareike Graepel