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The study: Latinx students reported higher symptoms of depression and anxiety than other students during the pandemic


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Latino children in the United States experienced higher rates of depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study shows, with experts citing an “urgent need” to examine the long-term impact.

Results published in Journal of Child and Adolescent PsychologyA follow-up examining school data for early adolescents in the first two years of the pandemic, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The results show that Latino students were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be at risk of developing depression and anxiety during each study cohort in the school year assessed.

The highest rate of mismatching was found among Latina girls and gender non-conforming/binary students.

Clinical psychology professor Antonio Polo, of the DePaul College of Health and Sciences, was the lead author of the four-year study.

Commenting on the findings, he said, “Uncertainty remains as society takes stock of the effects of drastic changes in lifestyle, and the apparent mental difficulties experienced by children and adults. In the United States, Latino youth and families have been disproportionately affected.”

“These findings highlight the need for practical and effective programs to meet the needs of adolescents in school settings, and this is a critical time for their widespread implementation.”

“In particular, the findings for non-binary students point to the need to make school environments more inclusive and welcoming to youth across the gender identity spectrum so that these students have a place to turn to rather than feel isolated or alienated.”

The sample for this study consisted of 1220 elementary and middle school students from 59 Chicago Public Schools (CPS), who were identified by school personnel and referred to services.

Polo and colleagues are DePaul-trained social workers, school psychologists, and school counselors who helped these students receive an evidence-based coping skills program to meet their mental health needs.

CPS is the fourth largest school district in the United States, enrolling more than 320,000 students. Most CPS students are economically disadvantaged (72.7%) and from Hispanic (46.5%), African American (35.8%), European American (11.0%), and Asian American (4.4%) backgrounds (Chicago Public Schools (CPS), 2022).

Students who participated in the study were assessed using the Children’s Depression Inventory and the Child Anxiety and Depression Scale to assess their symptoms and risk levels for depression, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety.

The team’s findings confirm previous studies that have demonstrated that Latinx youth report higher symptoms of depression and anxiety than their peers. Polo notes that this type of anxiety changed from the first year and two of the pandemic.

“There was greater general anxiety in the first year of the epidemic and greater social anxiety in the second year of the epidemic.”

“This makes sense because during the first year of the pandemic the kids were home. They had concerns about COVID-19 and the health and safety of their parents and grandparents.”

“There was also a financial insecurity. During the second year, students returned to the classroom. Returning to in-person instruction and interaction with teachers and fellow students was difficult for many students and caused them to move to greater risks from general anxiety to social anxiety.”

It’s not surprising, the researchers said, that assimilation problems are on the rise for young Latinxes and young adults in general.

They noted that “families were in isolation and withdrawn from others for prolonged periods. The children received instruction via video conferencing for more than a year. They did not have access to normal and less restrictive socialization opportunities. In addition, mental health services were severely disrupted and often unavailable.” for Latino youth, especially those from uninsured and those from low-income backgrounds.”

The multiple stressors that Latino children and families from underrepresented backgrounds experienced during and before the pandemic also played a role, the researchers noted. This included hostile and discriminatory immigration policies in the United States, racially motivated mass shootings, discrimination against Asian Americans, and the police killing of George Floyd and others.

Polo and his colleagues shared their concerns about the prospects for a rapid turnaround in students’ high rates of depression and anxiety.

“The latest data from Illinois reveal a low teacher retention rate, high and chronic student absenteeism, and significantly lower achievement in math, English, and other subjects that are closely associated with depression among Latinx students,” they wrote.

“Rates of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents were already on the rise during the decade prior to the pandemic, which indicates that addressing these problems is of paramount importance.”

more information:
Antonio Polo et al., An Epidemic of Internalizing Problems Among Latino Adolescents Before and During the 2019 Coronavirus Pandemic, Available here. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychology (2023). doi: 10.1080/15374416.2023.2169925

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the quoteStudy: Latinx Students Report Higher Depression and Anxiety Symptoms Than Other Students During Pandemic (2023, March 31) Retrieved March 31, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-latinx-students-higher-depression – anxiety. html

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