CDC survey: 37% of US teenagers report poor mental health during pandemic

Lockdowns, remote schooling, isolation, and other challenges caused by COVID-19 had a negative effect on the mental well-being of the adolescent population, data released on March 31 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed.

“More than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year,” according to the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey, which sought to highlight the challenges faced by American high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey also found: More than half (55%) of the respondents reported experiencing emotional abuse—including swearing, put downs or insults—from a parent or other adult in the home. Some 11% of the participants reported physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home. More than a quarter (29%) said that a parent or other adult in their household had lost their job.

Emotional and physical abuse

According to the study, the high prevalence of self-reported emotional and physical abuse during the pandemic highlights that increased stress contributes to emotional and physical harm.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and female teens were more likely to report emotional or physical abuse than their counterparts, the report said.

Regarding abuse from outside the home, “36% of students said they experienced racism before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. The highest levels were reported among Asian students (64%) and Black students and students of multiple races (both 55%),” the CDC said. “The survey cannot determine the extent to which events during the pandemic contributed to reported racism. However, experiences of racism among youth have been linked to poor mental health, academic performance, and lifelong health risk behaviors.”

Cry for help

“These data echo a cry for help,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future.”

Schools can promote connections to resources that help students resolve the negative experiences they had during the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, and community support can deliver coordinated, cross-sector programming, the CDC said.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has persisted for more than two years, only exacerbated the situation with mental health illnesses among the general population, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, produced last year.

The pharmaceutical industry can do more to address serious mental illnesses (SMIs), and policy changes can encourage greater drug development in this area, according to a report released early this year by the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health (CEVR) of the Tufts Medical Center.

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