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Although children are less likely to suffer the direct health consequences of Covid-19, the associated infection control measures are likely to have a significant impact on their development, health and wellbeing.

Children aged 2–4 were unable to meet and play with peers, learn crucial aspects of socialisation and may have picked up increased levels of anxiety that may have been present in the home. This meant that a substantial number of children experienced poor mental health and wellbeing during lockdown. This was particularly noticeable in findings around the quality of sleep for children, which deteriorated for many. Opportunities for play were reduced, for example as a result of play parks being closed.

Concurrent work surveying the experiences of families with children aged 2–7 has shown that, in addition, children’s use of services decreased during the lockdown period. Some parents who wished to make use of services were either unable to do so or thought the service was no longer running.

The report highlights the importance of children’s services, including priority face-to-face services for health visits and developmental reviews, and of families knowing they can use them.

Dr Deborah Wason, Public Health Intelligence Principal and lead author said:

“Our report offers a greater understanding the direct and indirect impact of Covid-19 on our communities, and in particular on our young people. We hope that the various networks of professionals involved in planning services for, and directly supporting, the healthy development of children will find it helpful as we all continue to respond to the pandemic.

“What we do now can mean better futures for this generation of children and young people.”

This the first in a planned series of papers considering the positive and adverse effects of Covid-19 on children’s and young people’s development and wellbeing, at different ages and stages of their lives.

PHS will continue to work with others in government, local government, in the third sector and in our communities, to monitor the impact of the pandemic in Scotland and provide evidence to support ongoing measures and action to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland.