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A young boy in Thailand. Photo: Chaiwat Subprasom/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Image

Experts fear children will be suffering from the psychological effects of the pandemic for decades — even down to the level of their genes.

Why it matters: Children are not exempt from the stress associated with the pandemic and its accompanying economic shock, and we could be reckoning with the scars of the experience for generations.

Driving the news: A new survey of more than 6,000 parents and children in the U.S., UK and other countries by the charity Save the Children found about 1 in 4 children living under COVID-19 lockdowns are dealing with anxiety and are at risk of depression.

Context: Based on past research into the long-term effects of economic stress, experts worry the impacts of the pandemic will be felt by children long after the disease itself is finally conquered.

  • "The poorest households simply won't recover from the effects on education and lost income," says Candice Odgers, co-director of the Child and Brain Development Program at the Canadian NGO CIFAR. "For many children their safety place is school, and that has been pulled out from under them."

How it works: While the anxiety and feelings of depression connected to the pandemic may seem purely psychological, research suggests those intense stressors can affect children's genes and biological development.

  • "These early life experiences literally get under the skin," says Michael Kobor, a professor of medical genetics at the University of British Columbia. "That's why we think the secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are going to be profound."

The bottom line: Experts urge policymakers to ensure that benefits and aid be distributed equitably to children at all income levels. And while they deal with their own coronavirus anxieties, parents should be mindful of what their children are enduring.

Editor's note: The spelling of Michael Kobor's name has been corrected.

Go deeper

Aug 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus forces rethinking of safety net for working women

Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for working women, but one prominent women's policy expert says it could provide a new opportunity to create the kinds of social supports they should have had all along.

Driving the news: In an interview with "Axios on HBO," Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said the pandemic has created a "she-cession" — a loss of jobs that has disproportionately affected women and highlighted the gaps in the safety net for working families.

How Jill Biden changes the classroom reopening conversation

Joe Biden "surprised" Dr. Jill Biden after her speech in a classroom at Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Democratic National Convention via Reuters

In Dr. Jill Biden's speech from a classroom where she once taught, she took on the issue of reopening schools safely, acknowledging the yearning many families have for a return to learning.

Why it matters: This could help scramble President Trump's message that Republicans want to open while Democrats want to stay shut. Jill Biden wants to open, too, but it has to be safe.

Aug 19, 2020 - Health

People of color struggle to afford health care

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

People of color disproportionately lack stable health insurance and have more trouble affording health care than white Americans, a new survey from the Commonwealth Fund shows.

Why it matters: This is one of the long-standing inequalities the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated.