A new report from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children found that most children in Ontario are suffering from symptoms of depression as lockdowns and school closures persist.

Released Thursday, the report found that just over half of children aged 8 to 12 reported symptoms of depression in February and March of this year.

Among children aged 13 to 18, a staggering 70% reported symptoms of depression.

“We are seeing that children of all ages have had negative consequences from public health guidelines that have largely been put in place to protect adults,” Sick Kids pediatrician Dr. Catherine Birken told the Toronto Star.

“[The results] are very, very concerning for us, and we wanted to share that preliminary information if it’s helpful for parents, clinicians and policy-makers to think about how to mitigate that as we move into the school year.”

The researchers found a strong relationship between school closures and poor mental health, concluding that keeping children out of the classroom has led to increased rates of depression.

The report also found that the number of children involved in sports or extracurricular clubs has declined significantly during the pandemic. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, children in Ontario have spent little time in the classroom due to multiple lockdowns. Experts across Canada have warned of a “mental health crisis” that disproportionately affects children, including increased hospitalizations for mental illnesses.

Earlier in 2021, Ontario entered another lockdown and remains one of the most locked-down places in North America. Schools have remained closed for much of 2021.

Sick Kids psychiatrist Dr. Daphne Korczak says there is no evidence children have learned to cope with constant lockdowns, with the research showing that mental health has not improved over time.

“We didn’t see evidence of adaptation and resilience. Kids in Ontario experienced this stressor chronically for this year, and the longer the stressors continue, like the cancellation or changes to schools, the greater the risk is of a long-term problem,” Korczak said.

“We have to have meaningful conversations as our society reopens about how we can prioritize children and their mental health.”