Even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about the mental health of adolescents in the United States were growing and widespread.
As the effects of the pandemic spread rapidly in early 2020, adolescents were affected in many ways, from school closures and extra-curricular activity changes to increased isolation and distance from friends.
“The pandemic was a new experience for all of us, but adolescents may have been affected differently than other age groups,” said Stacey Simon, former clinical research coordinator at Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine. Associate Professor Anne E. Bowen, Ph.D. University of Colorado School of Medicine.
In a recently published study, Bowen and Simon found that of nearly 700 people aged 13 to 19 surveyed, nearly half endorsed moderate to severe anxiety at two points in the first year of the pandemic, We found that nearly three-quarters favored moderate to severe depression. .
“During the pandemic, when teenagers were unable to attend school and interact with society, when we saw a growing awareness of the hardships they were going through, it was It really hit me hard,” says Simon. “While many negative things have emerged from the pandemic, one small sliver of hope is awareness of adolescent mental health.”
Anxiety and Depression Reports
The idea to study anxiety and depression in adolescents in the first year of the pandemic was drawn from a large study initiated by Katherine Wesley, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatric respiratory medicine at the CU School of Medicine and study co-author. rice field. Sleep habits of adolescents during the pandemic.
“We analyzed those data and started talking about how we could learn more about adolescent mental health in the meantime,” says Simon. “We didn’t really know what to expect, but we knew there were a lot of young people at home, so we wanted to get a national representation of this population.”
The Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Pediatric Depression and Anxiety Brief Form was used to assess mood symptoms, including depression and anxiety, during the 7 days prior to the survey, and participants were assessed between May 2020 and 2020. I answered an 8-item questionnaire between November and January 2021. Wesley and Simon promoted an online self-report survey on Facebook.
Participants were asked about age, grade, race, ethnicity, gender identity, and zip code to assess socioeconomic status. Participants were also asked if they had previously been diagnosed with anxiety or depression by a medical professional.
listening and understanding
Of the 694 adolescent participants who completed the questionnaire at both time points, 40% reported a pre-pandemic diagnosis of depression and 49% reported a pre-pandemic diagnosis of anxiety. During the pandemic, nearly half favored moderate-to-severe anxiety and almost three-quarters favored moderate-to-severe depression at both time points.
Anxiety and depression were reported more frequently by respondents who identified as female or gender diverse. In particular, Bowen and Simon found that people living in areas of higher community distress also had higher levels of anxiety and depression.
“We know that economically vulnerable communities have been and will continue to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic. It’s important to recognize such disparities and take action to mitigate them,” says Bowen.
Among the lessons learned from the research is the need for parents, caregivers, educators, and health care providers to recognize mental health symptoms and work together to build early interventions that help children build resilience. Sexuality is a continual need.
“We know that people who work with adolescents are at particularly high risk of experiencing these mental health symptoms,” says Bowen. “I believe that at every level, from legislative bodies to school systems, communities and families, we need to continue to focus on ways to help adolescents make a healthy transition into adulthood.”
Simon says that while conversations about mental health can be difficult or intimidating for parents and caregivers to initiate, “just starting the conversation won’t trigger these symptoms. Encouragement, taking it seriously, and asking adolescents for help if they need it can really help your child feel heard and understood.