When you’re poor, even when times are bad, you’re really in trouble. That’s how it was during the pandemic, and that’s how it will continue with inflation and rising energy costs. Because if you don’t have money, you’ll notice with full force when things get expensive. And children especially notice in emergency cases how the problems in their environment become more and more concentrated. This is confirmed by a new DAK survey.
Socially disadvantaged students especially suffer during the corona period. Affected girls and boys experience negative changes in quality of life caused by the pandemic much more than all comparison groups.
DAK states that it refers to life satisfaction, health and psychological well-being. In particular, more and more children and young people complain of frequent headaches, stomach or back pain – especially in families of low social status. This is shown by the current DAK-Gesundheit prevention radar for the school year 2021/2022.
For the school study, which is unique in Germany, IFT-Nord in Kiel, on behalf of the health insurance company, surveyed around 18,000 boys and girls in grades 5 to 10 in a total of 13 federal states and compared the results with previous years.
As a consequence, DAK CEO Andreas Storm calls for concerted action on health and family policy to strengthen the health of children and young people in Germany. For the professional association of pediatricians, social inequality is increasing.
When aid packages don’t help the poor
And it also confirms what the Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband found in its poverty report published on Tuesday, June 28. “The pandemic and inflation do not affect everyone equally. We have absolutely no sympathy for a federal government that moves around the country like a watering can, providing support where it is not needed at all and providing completely inadequate assistance only where it is urgently needed,” says Schneider.
The association criticizes that only two billion euros out of the total aid package of 29 billion euros was given as targeted assistance exclusively to people with low incomes. In addition, inflation would “eat” the lump sum payments before they are paid out.
“The DAK’s current prevention radar shows that the health and life satisfaction of many children and young people from socially vulnerable families has particularly deteriorated during the pandemic,” says DAK Director General Andreas Storm.
“The results of numerous studies and research show a great pressure for action. We must prevent the pandemic from creating a lost generation with health problems and mental suffering. In the short term, I call for concerted action on health and family policy across federal and state governments to strengthen the health of children and youth.”
The DAK-Gesundheit preventive radar examines the physical and psychological well-being and health behavior of wards 5 to 10 since 2016. Around 18,000 girls and boys from 1,100 classes in 13 federal states took part in the sixth wave of research by the IFT-Nord in Kiel.
When children suffer from the consequences of a pandemic
Accordingly, 29 percent of all school children reported poorer health due to the pandemic. In the case of socially vulnerable children and youth, it is significantly higher and amounts to 38 percent.
Compared to the period before corona, the share of all boys and girls who have headaches, stomach or back pain at least once a week has increased by about a third.
In socially disadvantaged families, the increase is almost half. A total of 24 percent of all respondents currently suffer from pain on a regular basis. 38 percent are among the vulnerable. A comparable picture emerges with regard to exhaustion and fatigue: Among socially disadvantaged children, 70 percent often feel tired and exhausted – the total is 57 percent.
Dr. Thomas Fischbach, president of the Professional Association of Pediatricians, confirms the results of the DAK-Gesundheit study. “In our practices, we see that, in addition to diseases related to organs such as obesity, there is also an increase in psychosomatic complaints such as frequent abdominal pain and headaches. And there are more general psychological problems such as lack of motivation and exhaustion leading to depressive disorders. All in all, the greatest concern is caused by socially disadvantaged children. The pandemic acts as an additional amplifier of social inequalities, and federal politicians have so far watched idly.”
Loneliness and declining life satisfaction
According to DAK’s prevention radar, the pandemic affected the life satisfaction of more than half of children and young people. Overall, perceived life satisfaction “deteriorated significantly” for 7.7 percent of respondents.
There are comparable results for future prospects. In addition, every other student of the 2021/2022 school year. he had reduced mental well-being. There were 67 percent in the socially disadvantaged group; here are the most affected: average 15-year-old girls in grades 5 to 10 with a share of 86 percent.
The statements of many girls and boys on the topic of loneliness are also striking: the vast majority of all respondents (about 84 percent) experienced loneliness during their school years in Corona. Of them, about 39 percent state that they felt lonely even more often because of the pandemic. Respondents with this condition are also more likely than other children to say that friendships have suffered as a result of the pandemic.
“The current DAK prevention radar clearly shows in various areas that the pandemic had very different effects and consequences depending on the social status of school children. It is likely that children and young people with a higher social status have more resources that are necessary to perceive and classify an exceptional situation and ultimately to survive it well,” explains Professor Reiner Hanewinkel, Head of Studies at IFT-Nord in Kiel.
The Institute for Therapy and Health Research conducts annual surveys for the Prevention Radar and evaluates the results for DAK-Gesundheit. “During the pandemic, children and young people experience a significant degree of mental stress and loss of quality of life. Families with low social status have fewer coping resources and need support.”