The COVID‐19 pandemic health crisis has changed household and school routines leaving children and adolescents without important anchors in life. This, in turn, can influence their mental health, changing their behavioral and psychological conditions.
To systematically review the literature to answer the question: “What is the worldwide prevalence of mental health effects in children and adolescents during the COVID‐19 pandemic?”.
Embase, Epistemonikos database, LILACS, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and World Health Organization Global literature on coronavirus disease were searched. Grey literature was searched on Google Scholar, Grey Literature Report, and Preprint server MedRxiv. Observational studies assessing the prevalence of mental health effects in children and adolescents during the COVID‐19 pandemic were included. Four authors independently collected the information and assessed the risk of bias of the included studies.
From a total of 11,925 identified studies, 2873 remained after the removal of the duplicated records. Nineteen studies remained after the final selection process. The proportion of emotional symptoms and behavior changes varied from 5.7% to 68.5%; anxiety 17.6% to 43.7%, depression 6.3% to 71.5%, and stress 7% to 25%. Other outcomes such as the prevalence of post‐traumatic stress disorder (85.5%) and suicidal ideation (29.7% to 31.3%) were also evaluated.
Overall findings showed that the proportion of children and adolescents presenting mental health effects during the COVID‐19 pandemic showed a wide variation in different countries. However, there was a trend toward mental health issues. Therefore, policymakers, healthcare planners, youth mental health services, teachers, parents, and researchers need to be prepared to deal with this demand.