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Identifying vulnerable children’s stress levels and coping measures during COVID-19 pandemic in Japan: a mixed method study
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health. School of Social Welfare, Bukkyo University, Kyoto, Japan.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2368-5087
School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Department of Paediatrics, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar, Nigeria.
Department of Community Paediatrics, South Western Sydney Local Health District, Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4546-3231
2022 (English)In: BMJ Paediatrics Open, E-ISSN 2399-9772, Vol. 6, no 1, article id e001310Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected vulnerable children and youth. In Japan, despite evidence that the paediatric age group holds a lower risk of infection than the older population, there was a nationwide closure of schools as an early public health measure. Acknowledging that school closures brought heightened psychological and physical stress among Japanese children, we aimed to explore vulnerable children’s experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, focusing on socially disadvantaged subset of the population.

Methods: We used an adapted version of the ‘Perceived Stress Scale for Children’, with additional free-text space, delivered online to children attending three non-profit organisations which provide support for this group of vulnerable persons and families experiencing social disadvantage. Simple descriptive analysis was undertaken on the quantitative data; we used thematic and content analysis for the qualitative data.

Results: Thirty-six children participated in the online survey, mean age was 11.3 years, majority (61%) were male. The mean overall stress score (score distribution width: 0–39) was 14.8, with no difference in score distribution by age or gender. Free-text responses obtained revealed a range of stressors and protective factors. Schooling, COVID-19 fears, family tension and pandemic measures were sources of stress; family—in particular, the support of the mother—food, friendship and recreation were sources of comfort. While most responses indicated positive coping mechanisms, some displayed maladaptive behaviours.

Conclusions: The children in this cohort had high mean stress scores overall. Responses indicated that they were acutely reactive to COVID-19 as well as pandemic public health measures, and that missing schooling and contact with friends exacerbated their stress. Family was a source of strength as well as stress. A tailored public health response to COVID-19 needs to take into account the concerns voiced by vulnerable child populations be based on equity and child rights.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, 2022. Vol. 6, no 1, article id e001310
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Pediatrics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-192868DOI: 10.1136/bmjpo-2021-001310ISI: 000763486200001PubMedID: 36053626Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85131748585OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-192868DiVA, id: diva2:1641715
Available from: 2022-03-03 Created: 2022-03-03 Last updated: 2024-06-18Bibliographically approved

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Takeuchi, Hajime

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