Teenage girls were more stressed than boys during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their mental health should be a greater focus if there is a similar outbreak in the future, researchers say.
“Mental health responses during the pandemic should consider this significant gender difference and the effect of gender roles when developing stress management programs,” James Cook University neuroscientist Professor Zoltan Sarnyai said.
He and PhD student Riana Marie collaborated with the Canadian Centre for Studies on Human Stress on the research.
“We wanted to see if the absence of a structured school setting, disruption of routine, reduced social interactions and general uncertainty had psychological implications (on adolescents),” Prof Sarynai said.
The results appear to show there were psychological implications, but girls reported more symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression than boys did.
They also had more personal concerns and worries – such as whether their parents could lose their jobs or supermarkets could run out of food – than boys did.
Girls had discussions about the virus and followed the news about it more than boys, Prof Sarynai said.
They also experienced a greater number of symptoms of the virus than boys did, and reported the symptoms as more severe.
Girls suffered more stress than boys before the pandemic hit too.
The vulnerable developmental period of adolescence is already associated with the onset of psychiatric disorders, which put teens at greater risk during the pandemic, Prof Sarynai said.
More than 1300 teenage boys and girls in Australia and Canada were interviewed for the study between April and July 2020.
The Canadians were more concerned about COVID-19 and also discussed the virus more than Australian teenagers.
Australia reported over 34,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and a further 57 deaths.
Victoria and WA reported the most new cases.
NSW and Qld reported 11 deaths for the 24 hour period, while NSW also had another 12 deaths dating back as far as April that were freshly reported by the registry of births, deaths and marriages.