Most school students are battling anxiety, finds study by Mumbai’s KEM hospital
A study conducted by King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital shows a high prevalence of anxiety among schoolchildren in the city.
Researchers said there was an urgent need to start screening interventions for anxiety disorders to prevent future psychological complications like depression, substance abuse and suicidal tendencies.
The researchers enrolled 493 students between 8 to 15 years, from four English medium, private schools in Mumbai. These students’ academic performance was consistently in the average bracket (obtaining 60-90% marks or Grade B) for the past 2 years.
The study found one in 10 students , between the ages of 8 and 15, showed symptoms of anxiety. Among older students (12-15 years), one in five reported symptoms of anxiety. The reason for the increased prevalence is unknown.
“Symptoms of overall anxiety were present in 10.8% of students with older students (12–15 years old) having greater odds (18%) of overall anxiety symptoms than their younger counterparts,” said Dr Sunil Karande, who spearheaded the study.
Conducted by the paediatric and clinical pharmacology departments of KEM Hospital, the study has been published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine.
KEM Hospital’s study found obsessive compulsive behaviour was reported by the highest number of students (146 or 29.6%). Of the 493 students, 27.2% said they feared physical injury and 12% said they felt separation anxiety. Students also reported general anxiety (9.5%) and social anxiety (7.7%). Dr Karande said,
“They [anxiety disorders] usually remain undiagnosed due to the internalised nature of their symptoms. Moreover, they have been found to negatively affect students in terms of academic, social, and personal development.”
Although the study covers only four schools, Dr Karande said that the study’s findings point at a serious mental health issue in this demographic.
“Untreated anxiety over a period of time can contribute to school-refusing behavior and eventually to early school-leaving,” warned Dr Karande. “On the other hand, early diagnosis of anxiety symptoms would help to optimize management of students and may lead to favourable long-term academic and social outcomes.”