A group of researchers from Rhode Island looked at the intelligence quotient (IQ) scores of around 605 children born before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to their study posted in medRxiv on Aug. 11, babies born pre-pandemic had IQs ranging from 98.5 to 107.3. However, those born during the COVID-19 pandemic had IQ scores lower by 27 to 37 points.
The study by the Rhode Island researchers pointed to lockdown policies implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19 as a key factor behind the lower IQ scores. These included mask mandates, social distancing, stay-at-home orders and suspension of in-person learning. The effects of these mandates on the first 1,000 days of a child's life – the most crucial phase in children's development – contributed to the lower IQ points the researchers found.
"We found that children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic," the researchers wrote in their Aug. 11 study. They continued that even without children catching and falling ill from COVID-19, "the environmental changes associated [with the] COVID-19 pandemic is significantly and negatively affecting infant and child development."
Furthermore, the researchers found that male children had been more affected by the lockdowns than female children. Both male and female children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds born after January 2020, which were mostly from Black and Hispanic families, had a steeper dip in IQ scores than their White counterparts on average.
Nevertheless, the study authors wrote that "while socioeconomic factors appear to mitigate against the negative consequences of the pandemic, the primary factors underlying our observed trends remain unknown." (Related: Lockdowns, masks destroying mental health of children and young people.)
While younger children suffered from lowered IQs, older children were affected with mental problems that ended up with some taking their own lives. A June 2020 study published in QJM highlighted this phenomenon. It acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic's "profound psychological and social effects … [that] will probably persist for months and years to come." (Related: Extended coronavirus lockdowns having severe negative effect on mental health of children – report.)
True enough, the QJM study noted that COVID-19 survivors "may also be at elevated suicide risk." The study also pointed out that a spike in suicide rates may occur during and after the pandemic. It mentioned that suicide prevention hotlines in the U.S. experienced a huge increase of calls.
The June 2020 study remarked that social distancing, which was espoused as one of the main approaches to fight COVID-19, played a big role in the increase of suicides. "Social isolation contributes to … psychiatric disorders and suicidal behavior," the study authors wrote. They added that the reliance on social distancing to address the pandemic was "troubling … from a suicide prevention perspective."
The suicide of 15-year-old Kian Southway last year served as strong proof of the negative effects of COVID-19 lockdowns. Back in March 2020, the Welsh teen posted a Snapchat story that said "goodbye, everyone" before hanging himself. Despite his family's intervention and medical treatment, Kian died on March 31 – four days after his suicide attempt on March 27.
Kian's mother Jolene described him: "[He] was bright, he was popular and he was a joy to teach." However, the British government ordered the closure of schools on March 18 – which took a toll on the outgoing teenager. Nine days after that, Kian posted the Snapchat message. Friends then alerted his younger sister Darcey about the message, which led to his parents rushing into the room to check on Kian.
The teen was rushed to the hospital, but his condition worsened and he eventually died. During an inquest held at the Welsh town of Pontypridd, it was revealed that Kian had been missing school and his friends due to the lockdown. Coroner Thomas Artherton ruled Kian's death a suicide, saying: "It's tragic when a young person dies, but this is a greater tragedy when you take into account the circumstances of a young man with a loving family and close friends."
Pandemic.news has more articles about the negative effects of lockdowns on children's mental health.