The COVID Booster: How have the kids held up?

A study by Flinders University published in Youth & Society has found, among children playing team sport during the first wave of COVID-19, boys reported better general, physical and mental health than girls.

400 teenagers aged 13-17 were surveyed over two months at the beginning of the pandemic. The data revealed boys (which accounted for 3 in 5 respondents) were significantly more likely to report high levels of health quality compared to girls.

“Before the pandemic even began, Australian kids were already insufficiently active and various pandemic restrictions led to a further reduction in sport participation,” says lead author Dr Sam Elliott, who suggests the results might reflect either higher levels of male physical activity during lockdowns, or pre-existing stereotypes.

“[Boys] were more physically active during lockdowns, or due to entrenched gender stereotypes, boys were less likely to view themselves in an inferior manner.

“For girls, their lower scores could be due to female youth more readily relying on strong social support networks for sport participation, physical activity and psychological wellbeing, with restrictions hindering all social catch ups of this nature.

“We also know girls are more likely to drop out of sport during adolescence than boys, so if they did leave sport during lockdowns, these opportunities to stay connected would have greatly diminished.”

COVID-19 data dashboard

Australia 1
^Sum of Australia state and territory reporting; *Australian Department of Health Reporting. Data correct as of 7 October.
World 1
Data: World Health Organization.

COVID news in brief

And depression among Aussie teenagers is up

Another study from the Black Dog Institute found depression in teenage girls has doubled over the last 14 years, and increased among a number of age groups during the pandemic.

Similar to unrelated research from the US that found a doubling in adolescents reporting a major depressive episode in the past year, particularly among girls aged 12-17, the Black Dog Institute’s studies also showed links between ‘screen time’ and depression for people in this range. Researchers suggest technology use may be a coping mechanism for girls at these ages.

“Depression has become more common in adolescents and young adults over the past decade. There are also worrying signs of an increase in depressive symptoms in children since the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Professor Sam Harvey, the Black Dog Institute’s executive director and chief scientist.

The Black Dog Institute found nearly a quarter of children under 12 displayed “clinically significant” depressive symptoms during the pandemic. It suggests this may be related to reduction in sleep quality, with a third of children aged eight to 11 reporting the symptom.

It’s worth noting that a recent analysis from Australian National University researchers did find mental health among young people had begun to recover in recent months.

Vaccines do not impact pregnancy outcomes: review

Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, USA, have reviewed nine previous studies into links between COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy outcomes and found no link between the jab and negative foetal or birth outcomes, including pre-term birth, caesarean delivery, postpartum haemorrhage and chorioamnionitis.

Vaccination was, however, found to be linked to lower COVID-19 infection risk among pregnant women, and a reduced likelihood of neonatal intensive care admission.

COVID-19 damages your heart’s DNA

A small cohort study from Australian researchers published in Immunology suggests infection with SARS-CoV-2 causes damage to heart DNA that results in cardiac tissue and a range of other health problems.

Dr Artha Kulasinghe from the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute says that this direct attack on the heart’s DNA could lead to chronic illness.

“We couldn’t detect viral particles in the cardiac tissues of COVID-19 patients, but what we found was tissue changes associated with DNA damage and repair,” Kulasinghe says.

“DNA damage and repair mechanisms foster genomic instability and are related to chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative disorders, so understanding why this is happening in COVID-19 patients is important.”

Longer reads

Australia’s COVID-19 isolation requirement ends in October, experts concerned

A meeting of national cabinet has scrapped most of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions, but experts are not so happy, particularly with another wave in the making.

Story by Matthew Agius

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