School closures and disruptions caused by COVID-19 lockdowns have likely caused “substantial” long-term damage to children, the country’s Chief Medical Officer has warned.
Professor Sir Chris Whitty told a conference this week that many aspects of public health had “gone backwards” over the last two years, including a “significant” worsening in childhood obesity. He said that evidence suggested there had already been an impact on mental health of children, with a rise in eating disorders, but said much longer-term consequences may yet be seen. Witty also said elderly people had also suffered as the result of long-periods of isolation.
It came as research found soaring rates of depression and anxiety following the first lockdown. The prevalence of diagnosed depression went from 4% to 32% in 2020, the University of Bath study found, while cases of anxiety went from around 5% to 31%.
Witty also warned that a significant number of cancers were likely to have been missed as a result of screening being halted, meaning cases would be caught later when they are harder to treat.