UW, Harvard study examines stresses of pandemic and coping mechanisms

(Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A new study conducted by The University of Washington and Harvard found that having a daily routine, getting adequate sleep and limiting screen time can improve mental health in young people. 

Researchers surveyed over 200 children and teenagers in the Seattle area before the pandemic, the start of lockdown, and six months into it. 

Both young individuals and their parents took an online survey answering questions specifically designed for the pandemic. Researchers asked questions that covered issues about the physical, environment and financial or health burdens and academic stresses. 

UW co-author, Liliana Lengua, said the pandemic presented many unique experiences for youth and families.

According to the study, harsh economic conditions and social isolation exacerbated stress, anxiety and depression among kids and teens. 

As schools prepare to resume to in person this fall, major stressors for children included exposure to the media coverage of COVID-19. The continuous use of phones, TVs or computers were found to disrupt sleep patterns and daily routines.

"The biggest thing that we hope parents take from the study is that while youth mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, there are some simple steps that families can take that may have a positive impact," said first author Maya Rosen, a research associate at Harvard. 

Researchers found that helpful strategies to mitigate stress involved establishing structured routines, getting consistent sleep and curbing the consumption of news and overall screen time. 

"There may be other pandemics in the future, and we think that some of the discoveries we made this time around can help parents and teens," said co-author Andrew Meltzoff.

"There is no book about ‘how to cope with a worldwide pandemic,’ but science can provide helpful information that people can use now, even while we continue to gather more data."


Stay connected with Q13 News on all platforms:

DOWNLOAD: Q13 News and Weather Apps
WATCH: Q13 News Live
DAILY BRIEF: Sign Up For Our Newsletter
FOLLOW: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram