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EuropeWar in Ukraine is increasing the prevalence of mental health conditions in...

War in Ukraine is increasing the prevalence of mental health conditions in children, new study finds

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A new study presented at the European Psychiatric Association Congress 2024, which took place in Budapest this week, reveals a significant rise in mental health issues among children and adolescents displaced by the war in Ukraine. The research, conducted by the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry of Ministry of Health of Ukraine, highlights the devastating impact of prolonged exposure to violence and displacement on the mental well-being of young people.

As per UNICEF’s recent report on “The State of the World’s Children 2021”, the current COVID-pandemic is considered the tip of the mental health iceberg for young people across the world. The war in Ukraine is taking a devastating mental toll on children across Europe. Beyond those directly in the conflict zone, the constant media coverage spreads fear and anxiety, causing widespread worry and despair. Experiences of war and military aggression can have a long-term and persistent impact on the physical and mental health of children, with far-reaching and long-term consequences for their development.

These consequences can stem from a variety of challenges such as inadequate healthcare, malnutrition, infectious diseases, and familial distress, all of which can have a significant impact on mental health.

The study examined 785 teenagers displaced from war-torn regions of Ukraine. Researchers observed a significant increase in the prevalence of various mental health conditions over a period of 6 to 12 months following displacement.

This study provides important information about the state of mental health in the child population of Ukraine in 2022-2023. About one-third of the child population has problems related to anxiety, traumatic stress, and developing various other mental health problems.

Key risk factors for these mental health problems include younger age, no longer being in a committed relationship, having fewer positive childhood experiences within one’s family context, and experiencing serious disruption to one’s life due to the Russian aggression.

“These findings paint a concerning picture of the lasting impact of war on the mental health of young Ukrainians. They underscore the urgent need for increased access to mental health services for children and adolescents affected by the war, both within Ukraine and in host countries,” explains Professor Geert Dom, President of the European Psychiatric Association.

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