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School-aged children and youth across the province are being asked to share their experiences in a survey examining the pandemic’s impact on their health and well-being.

On Monday, Dalhousie University launched its pandemic health and well-being survey for children and adolescents who’ve recently finished Grades 6 to 12 in Nova Scotia. Available in English and in French, the survey examines activity levels, mood, and overall well-being of children and youth, and how things may have changed due to COVID-19.

Dalhousie University undergraduate medical student Jodi Hong is working on the project. She said the survey will provide insight into how junior high and high school-aged students in Nova Scotia have responded to the pandemic. She said they want to learn more about how various pandemic shifts have impacted young people.

“Looking at the most recent lockdown (during this) third wave as an example, schools were said to be closed for the rest of the year and then a couple weeks later, the premier said that they would be open again,” Hong said in an interview on Wednesday.

“Just in a short amount of time, there were a lot of changes for kids, so we’re really looking for the youth perspective.”

Dalhousie University medical undergraduate student Jodi Hong is working on the research study titled ‘Health & Well-being Survey for School-aged Children & Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic.’ Photo: Contributed

Survey questions focus on things like sleep, mood, activities, and levels of sedentary behaviour — sitting, lying down, reclining, screen time — and how they may have changed due to COVID-19.

“We know that things are changing and evolving pretty quickly so this (information) will be important for recommendations of policies and programs going forward as Nova Scotia continues in the recovery plan and as students return back to school in September for hopefully a full year in person,” Hong said.

“This … could maybe make up for the lost time given that we know that there’s important relationships between social activities that kids experience in school and how much time they may have lost when they’re not playing sports or when things were online and they were all at home.”

A tweet from UpLift Nova Scotia (@UpLiftNS) July 12, 2021. Photo: UpLift/Twitter

“We are focused on the youth perspective, so it’s important that if parents are answering the survey on behalf of their kids, that they ask for their child’s input just to make sure that we’re getting their perspectives throughout the pandemic,” Hong said.

Since opening the link on Monday, researchers have received more than 200 responses. Of those, 140 are from parents filling out the survey with their children and the remainder are from youth.

The survey takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete and is open until Aug. 8. The survey is available in both French and English and there are two versions — one for parents and guardians, and the other for youth. (The French version of the youth survey can be found here, and the French parent/guardian survey here).

A similar survey last August garnered more than 1,000 responses, and Hong said they’re hoping for at least that level of participation or more this time.

Dalhousie University researcher Hilary Caldwell. Photo: Contributed

“I think this survey is giving us a reflection of a very different point in time,” Dalhousie University researcher Hilary Caldwell said in an interview.

Caldwell also worked on last year’s survey, conducted when students were out of school from March through to the end of the school year. She said this latest survey will capture the experience of students who were in school all year with the exception of a “serious but acute change” that saw them home for several weeks this spring due to the third wave.

“In the survey last year, kids answered some questions about what they were looking forward to and it was getting back to in-person learning, seeing their friends, seeing their teachers, going back to sports, having big events like graduations, things that they really missed, and those things that are really important to their health and well-being,” Caldwell said.

She said while public health restrictions are required to control the spread of COVID-19, research over the last year has shown the impact of such measures are far-reaching.

“They go far beyond just controlling the spread of COVID-19 and may be affecting these kids’ moods and movement, behaviours, and how they’re feeling,” Caldwell said.

“This allows us to capture those secondary or residual effects of the pandemic and the lockdown so that as pandemic recovery plans happen … they can also focus on what are the parts of our routines that we really need.”

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Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor who enjoys covering health, science, research, and education.

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