COV0639 - SCAMP-COVID19: a school-based cohort study of COVID-19 secondary impacts on mental health

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: School of Public Health

Abstract

COVID-19 poses a significant threat to health. The government-enforced public health measures, including social distancing and closure of schools and businesses, also pose other threats to the health and wellbeing of society and its social and economic infrastructure. The Study of Cognition Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP) has been studying almost 7000 adolescents (currently aged 15-17) over the past 6 years, from schools across Greater London. It collected detailed information about adolescents' mental health, their use of digital technology, as well as their lifestyle and behaviour, such as sleep and physical activity. We will investigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health measures on adolescent mental health and wellbeing, within the SCAMP study. We will investigate risk factors for mental health problems due to COVID-19 public health measures and their profound disruption to adolescent education and social networks and find out what factors can be changed to boost resilience. This research will investigate questions such as: whether changes in use of digital technology have a positive or negative impact on adolescent mental health; and who is most at-risk of negative outcomes, such as those experiencing more family stress, lack of access to healthy food and outdoor/green space.

Technical Summary

COVID-19 is an extraordinary public health crisis, involving unprecedented measures such as social distancing and school/business closures. These are disrupting the social and economic fabric of normal life and will likely have negative impacts on individual and population mental health.

Adolescents may be particularly susceptible to negative mental health impacts, due to (i) school closures e.g. disrupted education, decreased ability to socialise, cancellation of critical exams (GCSEs and A-Levels), and (ii) because adolescence is a transitional period of development in terms of the social environment, biological changes, and cognitive maturation. The prospective cohort Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP) (Toledano et al 2019, Int J Epidemiol), funded by DHSC, has been collecting comprehensive data on mental health, cognition, digital technology/social media use, and behaviour since 2014 in London teenagers, with 56% from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups. Data were collected at two time-points when participants were aged 11-12 (N=6616), and 13-15 (N=5405).

This research will gather time-critical data on adolescent mental health, cognitive function, and changes in behaviour (digital technology use, physical activity, sleep), across the pandemic period within this large well-phenotyped cohort (currently aged 15-17). It will evaluate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent mental health and explore underlying mechanisms to identify risk and resilience promoting factors. It will also examine qualitatively the nature of adolescent mental health vulnerability and need in relation to the pandemic. It will deliver critical outputs on adolescent mental health in response to the COVID-19 crisis, within the 12-month study period.

Publications

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