The Scottish Parliament health, social care and sport committee has launched an inquiry into the health and wellbeing of young people.
The single biggest barrier to improvements in child health is poverty, experts told members of the committee in its first evidence session on Tuesday.
Professor Hazel Borland, interim chief executive of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, outlined a range of other issues, including the impact of school closures on the attainment gap, interaction with dental services, childhood obesity and the impact on mental health that has led to an increase in suicides across the country.
Mary Glasgow, chief executive of Children First, told the committee: “By any measure, every aspect of children and young people’s development has been impacted by the pandemic and the associated restrictions.”
Children have been affected by pandemic-related anxiety felt among adults, as well as the loss of relationships and opportunities that lockdowns have brought, Ms Glasgow said.
There has also been an increase in distress and anxiety associated with loss, with not enough support available to help children deal with this.
“One of the single biggest things has been the difficulty that children, young people and their families talk to us about reaching out and getting support in a timely fashion,” Ms Glasgow said.
“It was really difficult before the pandemic, there was a lack of support to recover from the impact of trauma. It was very difficult to access quickly good quality support for children who were experiencing emotional distress or mental health difficulties.
“That got a lot worse through the pandemic.”
Heather Connolly, health psychologist and principal educator for health improvement at NHS Education for Scotland, said poverty impacts all other factors associated with child health.
“That’s one of our biggest difficulties right now in our society, and I think unfortunately that’s only going to get worse,” she said.
She added: “I think trying to tackle child poverty gets down to the core of some of the difficulties children and young people have growing up, in terms of access to certain services, and ability to go to community groups and have those relationships with other children and younger people.”
Source: The Scotsman, January 2022