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Cogent Medicine ; 8, 2021.
Article in English | EMBASE | ID: covidwho-1617066

ABSTRACT

Background and Objectives: In March 2020, approximately 57 million children were affected by massive school closures in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Many child advocates expressed concerns about the impact of physical school closures and transition to virtual learning on school-aged children's mental health and well-being, particularly those who utilized resources, such as counselling or special education, within the school system. This systematic review was done to identify a) the effect and impact of school closures on the mental health of children in grades K-12, if any, and b) to guide future research on the topic. Methods: A systematic review focused on published articles addressing the effect that COVID-19 related school closures and transition to virtual learning had on school-aged children's and adolescents' mental health. Inclusion criteria included: human studies, scholarly papers, school-aged children, SARS-CoV-2 research, mental health impacts, an article written in English, and research-based in the United States. Exclusion criteria included: not human studies, studies not available in English, individuals over 18 years old, and SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV research. The search was conducted between March 20, 2021, and April 18, 2021. Articles were further screened utilizing the PRISMA flow diagram. Once screened, included articles were reviewed by one member of the research team and a PICO-style analysis was used for each article. After the initial review, a total of 11 articles were included in this systematic review. Learning Points Discussion: We identified several areas of a child's life that school closures limited access to, such as reduced-cost meals, mental health services, and special education. Since the school closures and subsequent transition to online schooling, these resources became unavailable or limited by virtual technology. Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and marginalized communities were particularly vulnerable to negative mental health changes due to school closures and decreased access to school-based resources. These individuals belonging to a lower socioeconomic class are more likely to have inadequate computers to utilize in-home learning, have more unstable internet connections, and are less likely to have a caregiver that can stay home to help with their distanced learning. This research will be vital in understanding any adverse effects on children and shaping the future development of school-based programs and their funding.

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