Children in Cyprus reported the second highest amount of negative effects from the Coronavirus pandemic, an international survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed on Tuesday.

As only Kazakhstan reported a greater impact, the education ministry said it will focus on the results of the survey “to improve specific aspects of the education system and promote the health of school-age children”.

It added that in general, Cypriot students followed the trend of students in the 22 countries participating in WHO’s international Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey.

According to the global survey, the island is also among the countries where only a small percentage of teenagers, 19 per cent, reported a positive impact of the pandemic in most areas of their lives compared to the much higher percentage in other southern European countries such as Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia and Moldova. The average stood at 31 per cent, the education ministry said.

Those who reported positive experiences had received support from family, teachers, classmates and peers.

“Social support, therefore, is a ‘lifeline’ in difficult times as it builds resilience, eases burdens and promotes well-being,” the ministry said.

Although mental health, physical activity and school performance were negatively affected during the pandemic, relationships with family and friends improved. But girls, older adolescents and those from less affluent families experienced more negative impacts and adolescents’ experiences were varied and complex, the survey showed.

Overall, 30 per cent of adolescents report a negative impact on their mental health, which affected their school performance and family relationships. Almost 50 per cent of teenagers experienced increased feelings of school stress during the Covid-19 pandemic while 16 per cent of adolescents reported low levels of life satisfaction.

These reports propose ways to support children affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, strengthening mental health promotion measures, supporting girls and older children, prioritising lifelong education and addressing income inequality.

Given Cyprus’ now regular participation in WHO’s international survey, “a clearer picture of the level of improvement in the areas covered by the survey is expected to emerge.

“Benchmarking on all aspects covered by the survey, which will become possible in the future, will enable our country to further reshape, adapt and design relevant policies,” the education ministry added.

According to the ministry, the HBSC, conducted every four years, provides international comparative data on the health, quality of life, social environment and health behaviours of school-age children (11, 13 and 15 years old).