Students line up in front of a testing station installed at a middle school in Seoul (Yonhap)
More than 1 in 4 elementary students have experienced greater feelings of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Education Ministry said Wednesday.
Korea Research conducted a study on mental health of students in Korea, which ran from Feb. 11 to 18 and involved 341,412 elementary, middle and high school students, under the request of the ministry.
While 27 percent of elementary students responded they have become more depressed than compared to before the pandemic, 26.3 percent said they have become more anxious.
Some 12.2 percent of middle and high school students showed severe depression and 7 percent showed severe anxiety.
The study also showed students using the internet and smartphones for longer durations since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Some 73.8 percent of respondents answered they are using the devices for longer hours.
Some 83.5 percent of elementary students from first to fourth grade answered they are using the internet and smartphones more. However, it was their parents who answered for them in the survey.
Nearly half, 43.2 percent of the total respondents, answered they are feeling more stressed about academic achievements after the pandemic, while 31.5 percent said they have grown apart from their friends during the past two years of social distancing.
“It is difficult to pinpoint the reasons,” an official from the ministry said, regarding the survey. “However, it is likely that schools going online for a long time had an effect (on students).”
Most students, 67.9 percent of the total respondents, said their families were helpful when going through mental, psychological issues, followed by 26.7 percent who said it was their friends who helped them, while 10.6 percent said teachers and 4.1 percent said experts. But 17.6 percent said there was no one to help.
The study, however, shows limits in its lack of accuracy, having parents of students from first graders to fourth graders answer on behalf of their children. It also was conducted for the first time, making it difficult to compare to past studies.
The Education Ministry said it will strengthen its support for students’ mental and psychological health. It will launch a program that offers counseling for COVID-19 confirmed students and help them take part in physical exercises.
“We could see that the COVID-19 pandemic has been having a negative impact on the mental health of students through this study,” Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said. “The Education Ministry will strengthen its support for students in cooperation with education offices.”
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org