COMO study focuses on the physical and mental health of children and adolescents in Germany

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Less exercise, more time spent in front of screens, higher psychological stress, and reduced physical fitness: These alarming results were obtained by various studies focusing on children and adolescents during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, a consortium coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has launched the COMO study to find out whether these negative effects continue to exist. The study focuses on the physical and mental health of children and adolescents in Germany. The underlying data will be collected digitally exclusively. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with about EUR 1.8 million.

The study is carried out by KIT in cooperation with the University Hospital of Hamburg-Eppendorf, Karlsruhe University of Education, the University of Konstanz, and the University of Bochum.

"Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, many children and adolescents in Germany practiced less sports than recommended by the World Health Organization. During and after the second lockdown, physical activity decreased further and the use of screen media during leisure time increased," says Professor Alexander Woll from KIT Institute of Sports and Sports Science (IfSS), who coordinates the COMO study.

"We assume that the pandemic has not yet reached its end in this respect, but still has consequences in our society," explains Dr. Claudia Niessner. The head of a junior research group at IfSS initiated and now coordinates the consortium together with Woll. The COMO study is aimed at understanding long-term effects of the pandemic on children and adolescents and at deriving measures that are suited to support their health and development. First results are expected to be obtained in early summer 2024.

Researchers base among others on the results of the Motor-Module long-term study (MoMo) started by KIT and Karlsruhe University of Education in 2003. The MoMo longitudinal study was the only German representative study analyzing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on physical activity and motoric performance. Another basis of COMO are the results of the COPSY study executed by the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).

We see that the quality of life and mental health of children and adolescents decreased significantly compared to the time before the pandemic."

Professor Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer, Head of the COPSY study and Research Director of the UKE Department of Child and Adolescents Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

COMO is an acronym composed of the acronyms of the previous studies COPSY and MoMo.

Digital interviews and tests - Timely database for political decisions

The COMO study will not only supply latest, health-relevant data, but also push digitalization in pediatric research. For the first time, interviews and motoric tests will be carried out digitally. This will ensure prompt availability of data for political decisions. The COMO data will be collected online through interviews of children and adolescents aged 4 to 17 and their parents. In addition, special digital fitness tests will be carried out in video meetings under the direction of V. Professor Anke Hanssen-Doose from Karlsruhe University of Education. The collected COMO data will then be compared with the COPSY and MoMo results in order to obtain a comprehensive picture. At KIT, research is embedded in the KIT Health Technologies Center (KIT HealthTech), where KIT researchers of various disciplines work on viable technologies for the healthcare sector.

COMO combines sports science, psychosocial medicine, and empirical social research

To obtain a holistic impression of the physical and mental health of children and adolescents in Germany, the partners contribute the following expertise to the project: KIT (Professor Alexander Woll, Dr. Claudia Niessner) expertise on physical activity and health, UKE (Professor Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer) on mental health, and Karlsruhe University of Education (V. Professor Anke Hanssen-Doose) on physical fitness and constitution. The University of Konstanz (Professor Thomas Hinz) studies environmental impacts and social inequalities. Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Professor Markus Reichert) analyzes how thoughts and feelings in everyday life affect behavior.

BMBF funds research on the effects of the pandemic

In a highly competitive contest, the COMO study was selected together with 17 other projects from nearly 500 proposals in the funding line "Gesellschaftliche Auswirkungen der Corona-Pandemie − Forschung für Integration, Teilhabe und Erneuerung" (social impacts of the pandemic - research for integration, participation, and renewal) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). For a duration of three years, BMBF will fund the innovative project with a total amount of about EUR 2 million.

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