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Study: 1 in 5 Israeli kids have clinical anxiety symptoms amid pandemic

Research finds ultra-Orthodox children mostly unaffected; majority of kids had difficulties with online classes

Israeli students wearing face masks return to school in Yad Mordechai, March 7, 2021. (Flash90)
Israeli students wearing face masks return to school in Yad Mordechai, March 7, 2021. (Flash90)

More than 20 percent of children in Israel are reported to suffer from anxiety amid the coronavirus pandemic, more than triple the rate as compared to before the health crisis, according to new research.

According to the study, 21% of parents reported their children to have clinical anxiety symptoms. However, the data found wide discrepancies between different communities — with 23% of kids in secular families, but just 7% of children in the ultra-Orthodox community.

The research was lead by Prof. Michal Grinstein-Weiss of the Social Policy Institute at Washington University, in collaboration with Prof. Rami Benbenishty of the Hebrew University, and the Adler Institute.

Grinstein-Weiss attributed the lower anxiety levels in the ultra-Orthodox community to the numerous Haredi educational institutions that continued to operate as usual during nationwide lockdowns, the Haaretz daily reported.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish kids make their way back home from a Talmud Torah, in Jerusalem on October 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The ultra-Orthodox perceived the pandemic differently, and more or less maintained their usual life routine,” she said, adding that “the anxiety that arose as a result of the coronavirus, and the changes it caused, affected them less.”

The researchers polled in late March some 1,000 parents of children aged 6-18. The study asked parents to fill out details on the children, including a section on anxiety symptoms.

Some 58% of parents said their children “felt lonely” since the onset of the pandemic, another 44% said their children needed emotional support, and 55% said they had difficulties adapting to online studies when schools were shuttered.

An Israeli girl seen during remote learning at her home in Moshav Haniel, northern Israel, on January 25, 2021. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

The research was published ahead of the full reopening of Israel’s school system on Sunday.

Cabinet ministers this week also abolished the requirement that some grades still learn in smaller class sizes.

Israel in recent months has significantly rolled back coronavirus restrictions by opening businesses, event venues, and other activities, as morbidity levels have dropped amid the country’s rapid vaccination drive.

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