Pandemic saw worsening mental health among teens, young adults, study finds

Another study analyzing the impact that the coronavirus has had on teens found that up to one-third of participants reported worsening mental health due to the pandemic. The study, which is ongoing, focused on teen boys and young men in Ohio and pulled data from a survey examining changes to mood, anxiety, relationships and other ways the pandemic may have impacted their lives. 

The results, which were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, showed that nearly a third of the 571 participants reported that their mood had worsened or their anxiety had increased between March 2020 and June 2020, which marked the beginning stages of the pandemic and when many social restrictions were put in place and schools shuttered. 

“The study found that worsening mood and increased anxiety during the pandemic were more likely in those with higher socioeconomic status, those who felt decreasing closeness to friends and family and those who were older,” the Ohio State University and Kenyon College researchers wrote. “Self-reported increases in anxiety were more common among those with a history of depression and/or anxiety.” 

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The study is one of many to have suggested that pandemic-related closures and isolation may have had worsening effects for teens and adolescents. One recent study saw a spike in eating disorder-related hospitalizations among teens, while another saw psychiatric admissions increase. 

“Though serious cases of COVID-19 have been rare among young people, the pandemic appears to have taken another toll on them,” Amy Ferketich, a professor of epidemiology at Ohio State.  

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While the study didn’t pinpoint an exact cause for worsening mental health, Ferketich hypothesized that those with unstable home lives or those from higher socioeconomic groups who may have been more likely to have parents working from home would be the hardest hit. 

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On the flip side, the survey did find a number of positive responses such as an opportunity for self-exploration and connecting with family. Another study author said the findings emphasize the importance of helping teens find ways to maintain social connections.