Survey finds signs of depression among 10% of elementary, junior high school students

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Attendees wear masks at an entrance ceremony held outdoors at an elementary school in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday.

About 10% of students from the fifth grade of elementary school through the third year of junior high school showed moderate or worse symptoms of depression, according to a survey by the National Center for Child Health and Development.

The survey was conducted last December, and received responses from 2,418 people. With one out of nine respondents showing symptoms of depression, the findings indicate that the prolonged coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on elementary and junior high school students.

Among the respondents attending junior high school, 13% experienced moderate or worse symptoms, compared to 9% among fifth- and sixth-grade elementary school students. In addition, 31% of all respondents said they would wait and see without talking to anyone if they had depressive symptoms.

“The start of a new school year is a time when the environment changes and people feel particularly stressed,” said Naho Morisaki, a pediatrician and the head of the center’s Department of Social Medicine. “Some children are unable to express their state of mind in words. It’s important to proactively talk to them and listen to them at school and at home.”

Entrance ceremonies were held Wednesday at many elementary and junior high schools in the nation. While taking measures against infection, some schools allowed students and other attendees to sing their school songs with masks on during the ceremonies for the first time in three years.