Researchers at Scottish Rite for Children are looking into the impact of the pandemic on teenagers and youth. One study is analyzing current and former patients 18 years of age or older, volunteers, community members, and others to see the psychological impact of the pandemic, while the other is studying the virus’ impact on children’s activity levels and sports.
With a goal of several thousand participants, the psychological impact study hopes to better understand how people are responding to the disease’s impact on society. “We are hoping to characterize the stress response and help inform future response efforts,” says Dr. Whitney M. Herge, a Pediatric Psychologist at Scottish Rite who is leading the study. “We want to understand what symptoms we need to be on the lookout for, what might put someone at greater risk, and identify which coping behaviors are most helpful.”
The study is still in the data collection phase, but Herge says preliminary analysis shows that there has been initial frustration with telehealth, especially for therapy appointments that need equipment and physical activity. They have also seen increased anxiety about postponed treatment or surgeries that often deliver a significant quality of life improvements.
The other research is a collaborative effort between Scottish Rite and Texas Woman’s University, UT Arlington, and the University of North Texas, and looks at children’s play levels since the pandemic closed public playgrounds. The study is aimed at parents of children three to 18 years old, and hopes to better understand how neighborhoods changed during the pandemic in regard to outdoor spaces and play areas. With levels of activity differing for each child, the study is looking at how the pandemic impacted organized sports and physical activities as well as free play.
The pandemic may have pushed children into more outside play than before, with the closure of schools. For others, especially those in team sports with now canceled seasons and practices, it may have cut into their activity time. “Our goal was to understand how the pandemic was affecting the physical activity with kids,” says study lead Dr. Kirsten Tulchin-Francis, a Division Director in Movement Science at Scottish Rite.
The hospital will be hosting a series of morning lectures, where preliminary data will be shared once it is collected.