A recent study published in the journal Child Development showed that higher cortisol levels (read: stress hormone) were seen in mothers and children of families that had faced more troubles due to the pandemic. Researchers from the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) studied the cortisol samples of 53 mostly lower-income Jordanian and Syrian families with young children in Jordon.
The research team had been working on another study before the pandemic hit in late 2019 and then pivoted it to use the aforementioned samples to study the stress, family functioning, and mental health of the subjects in the first nine months of the pandemic.
Cortisol is the stress hormone that acts like your body’s in-built alarm system. It kicks in when you’re in a flight or fight situation and signals the body to curb unessential functions. The study found that negative changes to family life predicted greater cortisol levels in children, which revealed their stress. When there were more negative changes to family life in June 2020, mothers reported that their children had poorer behavioural self-regulation.
The study concluded that the harmful physiological and psychological consequences of the pandemic will have long-term effects on children’s future capacity to learn and thrive. Researchers also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has been not just a global health crisis, with regards to both physical and mental wellbeing. The findings reveal the need and importance of developing programs to support the daily needs of low to middle-income countries where families have limited economic resources to draw upon.