WEDNESDAY, Sept. 15, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Older children, Black and Hispanic children, and children from families with lower income who attended school remotely during the pandemic in 2020 experienced disproportionate mental health difficulties, according to a study published online ­Sept. 3 in JAMA Network Open.

Matt Hawrilenko, Ph.D., from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues estimated the association between school closures and child mental health outcomes across sociodemographic characteristics. The analysis included survey responses collected between Dec. 2 and Dec. 21, 2020, from 2,324 U.S. adults with at least one school-aged child living in their household.

The researchers found that children attending school in person had higher household incomes (mean difference, $9,719) and were more likely to be White than children attending remotely (65.8 versus 44.5 percent). More mental health difficulties were seen in older children in remote schooling than those attending in-person schooling (standardized effect size, 0.23 per year older), yielding small effect sizes favoring in-person schooling for older children and very small effect sizes favoring remote schooling for younger children. There was a larger benefit from attending schools in person for children from families with a higher income versus peers from families with a lower income.

“These findings suggest that allocating funding to support safe in-person instruction may reduce mental health inequities associated with race/ethnicity and income,” the authors write.

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