There was a marked increase in the incidence and severity of abusive head trauma in infants in the Paris metropolitan area between 2020 and 2021, during the first two years of the pandemic, according to a new study. Photo by Wladyslaw/Wikimedia Commons
Aug. 30 (UPI) — Abusive childhood head trauma in France and domestic violence in Japan have increased during the pandemic, demonstrating the unintended consequences of trying to contain the spread of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable members of society.
That’s according to two studies published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open.
In the first to studyresearchers found a marked increase in the incidence and severity of abusive head trauma in infants from 2020 to 2021, during the first two years of the pandemic, in the Paris metropolitan area compared to the pre-pandemic period of 2017 to 2019.
The incidence of abusive head trauma in infants under one year of age, the most severe form of child abuse and neglect, increased 2.5-fold between July and December 2021 alone, compared to the pre-pandemic period.
Separately, a second to study found that consultation rates for people seeking help for domestic violence increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan.
The researcher said the increase may be due to a variety of factors, “including economic instability, increased exposure to exploitative relationships and reduced support options.”
Such findings should raise awareness among health professionals and lead to new prevention strategies, the researchers said.
The French study included cases of abusive head trauma in infants up to 12 months of age, referred between January 2017 and December 2021 to the Necker Hospital for Sick Children, the only regional center for pediatric neurosurgery in the Paris metropolitan area.
Dr. Alina-Marilena Lãzãrescu, a pediatrician in the hospital’s Department of Pediatric Anesthesia and Intensive Care, led the study.
The babies in the study had faced one or more subdural hemorrhages, bleeding between the brain and the skull due to a serious head injury. Abusive head trauma was evaluated by multidisciplinary evaluation after social, clinical, biological, and radiological study.
Thirteen of the 99 infants with abusive head trauma died. Among the infants, with a median age of 4 months, 86 had bridging vein thrombosis; 74 had retinal hemorrhages; 23 had fractures; and 26 had status epilepticus, definite such as a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes, or having more than 1 seizure in a 5-minute period without returning to a normal level of consciousness between episodes.
Twenty babies suffered skin lesions and 53 had to undergo neurosurgery, according to the research paper.
Compared to the pre-pandemic period of 2017 to 2019, the incidence of abusive head injury in infants younger than 12 months remained stable in 2020 and then increased significantly in 2021.
The researchers said in their paper that the measures taken to contain the pandemic “deteriorated the psychosocial situation of adults, increased the periods in which parents or guardians were at home for a long time with their children and reduced the intensity of programs prevention and early detection. for child abuse and neglect.
According to the researchers, abusive head trauma is the most common cause of traumatic death in infants in high-income countries. If the babies survive, they may face “microcephaly, epilepsy, motor and visual impairments, language disorders, intellectual disability, and behavioral abnormalities,” leading to severe lifelong disabilities.
They said efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus may have increased the risk of child abuse due to “psychosocial distress,” which includes “economic loss and unemployment, intolerance of frustration, adult psychiatric disorders, and intimate partner violence.” .
Lifestyle changes were also cited during the first two years of the pandemic, including remote working from home, school and daycare closures, full national lockdowns and curfews, as well as disorganized social services.
The researchers noted that the Paris metropolitan area is densely populated with two-thirds of its population living in small collective housing; and heavy outbreaks of COVID-19 have led to extended lockdowns and curfews, remote work obligations, and daycare closures.
According to a second study, rates of people seeking professional help for domestic violence have risen steadily in Japan since 2011. But there was “a considerable upward trend” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Again, the researcher cited pandemic restrictions that “increased time spent in domestic settings and contributed to income instability for both perpetrators and survivors” of domestic violence.
The study author was Xerxes T. Seposo, an associate professor in the Department of Hygiene at Hokkaido University School of Medicine in Sapporo.
Between 2011 and 2020, just over 1 million inquiries related to domestic violence were made in Japan, according to the research paper. Of these, 98.1% were women. Two-thirds of inquiries were made through call centers, while most of the rest were made during facility visits.
Annual domestic violence consultation rates rose to 38 per 1,000 population per reporting center during the pandemic from 32 per 1,000 before the pandemic, the researcher said.
And call center-based inquiries increased significantly during the pandemic: to 86,168 such calls in 2020, up from 68,279 calls annually from 2011 to 2019.
In his research paper, Seposo urged caution in trying to generalize Japan’s results to other countries.