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Parent and child mental health trajectories April 2020 to May 2021: Strict lockdown versus no lockdown in Australia

Objective: To control a second-wave COVID-19 outbreak, the state of Victoria in Australia experienced one of the world’s first long and strict lockdowns over July–October 2020, while the rest of Australia experienced ‘COVID-normal’ with minimal restrictions. We (1) investigate trajectories of parent/child mental health outcomes in Victoria vs non-Victoria and (2) identify baseline demographic, individual and COVID-19-related factors associated with mental health trajectories. Methods: Online community sample of 2004 Australian parents with rapid repeated assessment over 14 time-points over April 2020 to May 2021. Measures assessed parent mental health (Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scales-21), child depression symptoms (13-item Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire) and child anxiety symptoms (four items from Brief Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale). Results: Mental health trajectories shadowed COVID-19 infection rates. Victorians reported a peak in mental health symptoms at the time of the second-wave lockdown compared to other states. Key baseline predictors, including parent and child loneliness (standardized regression coefficient [β] = 0.09–0.46), parent/child diagnoses (β = 0.07–0.21), couple conflict (β = 0.07–0.18) and COVID-19 stressors, such as worry/concern about COVID-19, illness and loss of job (β = 0.12–0.15), predicted elevated trajectories. Effects of predictors on parent and child mental health trajectories are illustrated in an online interactive app for readers ( https://lingtax.shinyapps.io/CPAS_trend/ ). Conclusion: Our findings provide evidence of worse trajectories of parent and child mental health symptoms at a time coinciding with a second COVID-19 outbreak involving strict lockdown in Victoria, compared to non-locked states in Australia. We identified several baseline factors that may be useful in detecting high-risk families who are likely to require additional support early on in future lockdowns.

History

Journal

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry

Article number

00048674211065365

Pagination

1 - 12

Publisher

Sage

Location

London, Eng.

ISSN

0004-8674

eISSN

1440-1614

Language

English

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal