Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, children with a previous COVID-19 infection had higher rates of anxiety, depression, and appetite issues compared to those with no prior infection.

2. In addition, depression had the highest pooled prevalence among the mental health disorders seen in children following a COVID-19 infection.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

The COVID-19 pandemic led to several detrimental psychological effects. Notably, the pooled prevalence of several mental health disorders in children and adolescents has increased since pre-pandemic times. Yet, studies have not explicitly focused on the mental health effects of long COVID and prior COVID-19 infections in children. As a result, the objective of the present systematic review was to evaluate the mental health effects of COVID-19 infection in children.

Of 18,48 identified records, 13 studies were included from various databases from January 2019-May 2022. Studies were included if they reported mental health symptoms of long COVID or the treatment of anxiety or depression in children with long COVID. Studies were excluded if they focused on adult patients, did not have outcome data, or used ineligible study designs. The review was performed using PRISMA guidelines. The risk of bias was assessed using the National Institute of Health (NIH) Quality assessment tool for observational cohort and cross-sectional intervention studies. The primary outcome was the pooled prevalence of mental health outcomes in children following a COVID-19 infection.

The results demonstrated that children with a previous COVID-19 infection had higher rates of anxiety, depression, and appetite issues than children with no prior infection, which may be attributable to long COVID. Furthermore, the rates of the various mental health conditions identified in children following a COVID-19 infection were: depression (15%), mood swings (13%), anxiety (9%), concentration problems (6%), and appetite loss (5%). Despite these results, the study was limited by the absence of data on low- and middle-income countries, which may limit the generalizability. Nonetheless, the findings suggest that a prior COVID-19 infection may be associated with increased rates of adverse mental health symptoms in children.

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