A longitudinal study of mental health in at-risk adolescents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

D C Bouter, M Zarchev, N G M de Neve-Enthoven, S J Ravensbergen, A M Kamperman, W J G Hoogendijk, N H Grootendorst-van Mil*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Although cross-sectional studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the mental health of adolescents, the effect of the pandemic on adolescents with pre-pandemic symptoms is unclear. We, therefore, tested the hypothesis that adolescents had increased emotional and behavioral problems during the lockdowns imposed during the pandemic.This study included three measurements in a prospective cohort of 1022 adolescents who were oversampled based on their high risk of developing psychopathology. Before the pandemic, we assessed depressive, anxiety, stress, oppositional defiant problems, psychotic experiences and suicidality, using the Youth Self-Report; 445 and 333 of these 1,022 adolescents subsequently completed the online questionnaire in the first lockdown (in April 2020) and in the second lockdown (in January 2021), respectively. Multilevel random intercept regression models were used to determine the change in psychiatric symptoms, including an interaction term to assess whether these changes differed based on the severity of symptoms prior to the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, the majority of the participating adolescents reported having emotional and behavioral symptoms that were within the normal range. Moreover, the mean symptom scores for all six outcomes decreased significantly among adolescents with high clinical severity prior to the pandemic.In contrast to our original hypothesis, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may not necessarily be detrimental, at least among a specific subgroup of adolescents with pre-existing mental health problems. Moreover, our finding that most adolescents in this at-risk sample did not report experiencing clinically relevant symptoms during the pandemic reflects their resilience during the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2022

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