The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on adolescent mental health

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A study of more than 59,000 Icelandic adolescents conducted by a team of Icelandic and American behavioral and social scientists found that COVID-19 has had a significant and detrimental impact on adolescents ’mental health, especially in girls. The study is the first to investigate and document age- and gender-specific changes in adolescent mental health and substance use problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining upward trends that appeared before the pandemic. The findings are published in Lancet psychiatry.

The study found this to be mentally negative the results were disproportionately reported by older girls and adolescents (young people aged 13–18 years), compared with peers of the same age before the pandemic. At the same time, it revealed a decrease in cigarette use, e-cigarette use, and alcohol intoxication in 15- to 18-year-olds during the pandemic.

“The observed decrease in during the pandemic may be an unwanted benefit of the isolation so many teens have suffered during their forties, ”said senior collaborating researcher John Allegrante, an associate professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Health and an applied scientist in behavior.

Thorhildur Halldorsdottir, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Reykjavik who is the study’s lead co-researcher, said the study represents a “landmark contribution to what we now know about how psychologically devastating it is socially isolated from colleagues and friends the ongoing pandemic has been for young people. “

According to the researchers, no previous studies have been designed to determine whether clinically relevant levels of depression — rather than self-reported depressive symptoms — and substance use have increased during the pandemic.

Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, a professor of sociology at the University of Reykjavik, scientific director of the Icelandic Center for Social Research and Analysis, and a research professor of health education at Teachers College, said the study “differs in methodology. of previous studies on the fact that population monitoring prevalence of mental health outcomes and substance use over several years in order to better understand the potential effects of COVID-19 on recent upward trends in problems.

Previous studies in adolescents during COVID-19 found evidence of an increase in mental health problems and certain types of substance use that had increased before the pandemic. This study, however, compares current data with several pre-pandemic time points, which allowed researchers to separate the effect of COVID-19 from other recent and downward trends in adolescent mental health.

The implication of the new study is that interventions to reduce the negative impact of the pandemic on adolescent mental health could help improve the mental health prospects of young people around the world who have been trapped in the pandemic, he noted. Allegrante, who is also a tenured professor of health education at Columbia Teachers College.

“Isolation during the pandemic has been universal and global and has a significant and negative clinical impact on young people who have not been educated during the . Either one was an Icelander in Reykjavík who had been at home most of last year, or an American in New York City who lived under the same circumstances — being at home, engaged in remote learning and separated from friends, the consequences of not going to school not only hampered their learning, but also negatively affected their mental health. What we don’t know is how much. “

The study shows that prevention efforts are justified at the population level, especially for girls, “but that” more study is needed to determine the long-term effects of quarantine and be socially isolated from peers, including effects on learning and academic performance and relationships with parents, siblings and peers, ”Allegrante said.

Ingibjorg Eva Thorisdottir, senior data analyst at the Icelandic Center for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA) at the University of Reykjavik (who studied at Teachers College in 2009 as part of an exchange with the University of Reykjavik), was the principal investigator and lead author of the report.

Alfgeir L. Kristjansson, a senior ICSRA scientist and associate professor of public health at the University of West Virginia and co-author of the study, said that “the results underscore the importance of social relationships in the health and well-being of young people and the importance of fostering and maintaining strong social support mechanisms in their lives. Lancet psychiatry the study report highlights these findings at the population level. “Kristjansson was a postdoctoral fellow with Allegrante at Teachers College during 2010-2012.

In a commentary accompanying the publication of the article, Gertrud Sofie Hafstad and Else-Marie Augusti, both senior researchers at the Norwegian Center for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies in Oslo, write that the study “clearly shows that measuring the mental health status of adolescents over time is of imminent importance. ”


People with a history of adverse childhood experiences are more likely to bear a heavier load during the pandemic.


More information:
Ingibjorg Eva Thorisdottir et al, Depressive symptoms, mental well-being and substance use among adolescents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iceland: a population-based longitudinal study, Lancet psychiatry (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / S2215-0366 (21) 00156-5

Citation: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on adolescent mental health (2021, June 4) recovered on June 5, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-covid-pandemic- significant-mental-impact. html

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