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Pandemic Tied to Worsening of Teens’ Mental Health

Last Updated: June 18, 2021.

FRIDAY, June 18, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to worse mental health among adolescents, although there have been decreases in substance use, according to a study published online June 3 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Ingibjorg Eva Thorisdottir, Ph.D., from the Icelandic Center for Social Research and Analysis in Reykjavik, and colleagues investigated the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and substance use using data from surveys administered to a nationwide sample of 13- to 18-year-olds in Iceland in October or February 2016 and 2018 and in October 2020 (59,701 responses).

The researchers observed an increase in depressive symptoms and worsened mental well-being for all age groups during the pandemic versus the same-aged peers before COVID-19. In adolescent girls, these outcomes were significantly worse when compared with outcomes in boys. During COVID-19, there were declines in cigarette smoking (odds ratio, 2.61), electronic cigarette use (odds ratio, 2.61), and alcohol intoxication (odds ratio, 2.59) among 15- to 18-year-olds, with no similar gender differences.

"Isolation during the pandemic has been universal and it is global, and it is having a clinically important, negative impact on young people who have not been in school during the pandemic," a coauthor said in a statement. "Whether an adolescent was an Icelander in Reykjavik who had been at home for most of the last year or an American in New York City, living under the same circumstances -- being at home, engaged in remote learning and separated from friends -- the consequences of not going to school not only set back their learning but also negatively affected their mental health. What we don't know is by how much."

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