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Youth Depression and Anxiety Doubled During the Pandemic, New Analysis Finds

During the Covid-19 pandemic, depression and anxiety in youth doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the research. One in 4 adolescents globally are “experiencing clinically elevated depression symptoms, while 1 in 5 youth are experiencing clinically elevated anxiety symptoms.”

“Results from this analysis suggest that the pandemic has likely instigated a global mental health crisis in youth,” said study author Sheri Madigan, an associate professor of clinical psychology and Canada research chair in determinants of child development at the University of Calgary.

As the months went by, these negative impacts on youth only got worse, the study found. This surprised Madigan, who said she thought “they would be more resilient and malleable to the challenges of the pandemic” as it persisted.

This cumulative toll could be due to the persistent social isolation, missed milestones, family financial problems and extended school disruptions, according to the analysis. Further studies following children for a longer period of time should be conducted, the study noted, to monitor the ongoing effects.

The meta-analysis, published in JAMA Pediatrics, reviewed 29 studies with a total of more than 80,000 participants globally, ranging from age 4 to 17 with a mean age of 13. The included studies, which used empirical clinical data on depression and anxiety, were conducted in East Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Central and South America.

The study’s findings are consistent with what Jenna Glover, a child clinical psychologist and director of psychology training at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said she is seeing on the ground. She was not involved in the study.

“The disruption to their routines and consistency is very damaging for a child’s mental health,” Glover said. “They thrive on predictability, which has been absent for over a year.”

The chronic stress and instability children are experiencing can lead to feelings of hopelessness, which is one of the top predictors of suicide ideation, she added.

In addition to the general increase in youth mental illness, the study also found that older children were impacted more severely than younger ones, possibly due to puberty and hormonal changes on top of the loss of social interaction.

Girls showed greater prevalence of depression and anxiety, too, which, according to the study, is in line with research prior to the pandemic. While this is a well-known phenomenon, it often gets glossed over in conversations about mental health, Glover said.

Madigan said, “Schools can be a refuge for many youths, but also, up to 80% of youth rely on school-based services and resources to address their mental health needs,” she said. “If schools are closed, many youths who need help may feel they have nowhere to turn to get it, which could have drastic consequences.”

Brae Anne McArthur, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Calgary and a clinical child psychologist who was also involved in the study said although the situation is dire, we still have time to turn it around.  “If we can come together as parents, researchers, clinicians and policy-makers to develop clear and actionable ways to move forward to support child and youth mental health, we can re-write this story in another year’s time.”

Excerpted from “Youth Depression and Anxiety Doubled During the Pandemic, New Analysis Finds” from CNN. Read the full article online.

Source: CNN | Youth Depression and Anxiety Doubled During the Pandemic, New Analysis Finds, https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/10/health/covid-child-teen-depression-anxiety-wellness/index.html  | © 2021 Cable News Network

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