Israeli children see rising depression rates since start of Gaza war

Science and Health

New data released recently reported the shocking rate of depression and anxiety disorders among children and teenagers. A study in the journal Pediatrics reported an increase in the rate of depression among children, twice as much among girls. Similarly, an Israeli expert reported a significant increase in depression in Israel that has worsened since October 7.

The first data on an increase in the rate of depression and anxiety disorders among children began to appear in the first year of COVID-19. Parents and children reported feeling worry, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. In Israel, an alarming increase in depression has been observed in recent years. A survey by the Haruv Institute from the first two months of the 2020 pandemic reported that about a quarter of children expressed great concern for their physical health, their education, and their family’s economic status.

The same year, the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics found that about a quarter of parents reported a negative emotional change in their children as a result of the first lockdown. Data shows that in 2020, the number of children who started medication for depression or anxiety increased almost threefold compared to the year before.

The Pediatrics study reported that data that surveyed about a quarter of a million people, prescriptions for antidepressants were given to 65% of the girls and 36% of the boys.

The distribution of medicine was accelerated as of March 2020 at a rate of 130% among girls aged 12-17, and increased by 57% among girls aged 18-25. The rate of use among boys and girls remained at 36% and did not change. Researchers pursued additional studies to examine why the use of antidepressants did not increase among boys, despite data that showed an increase in sadness, hopelessness, and suicide attempts among adolescent boys.

Depression (illustrative) (credit: ING IMAGE)

The ongoing mental aftermath of COVID-19

“COVID-19 has presented humanity with a huge mental health challenge throughout the entire population,” says Dr. Miriam Fink, head of Leumit Health Care Services. “The need for international lockdowns and social distancing has increased depression rates, especially among those who previously suffered from anxiety.

Over the past few years in Israel, we have seen a more significant increase in new cases of young people and adults who are diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This naturally leads to an increase in the use of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. The growing need for mental health services continues to be a challenge, especially considering the consequences of the complex COVID period. This along with the effect of the current war in Israel continually affects numerous citizens with anxiety, stress, and trauma.”