Adolescent mental health trajectories negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

1. In this longitudinal study of a cohort of adolescents, anxiety and depression scores increased after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

2. Male participants had higher depression scores than female participants, whereas female participants had higher anxiety scores than males.

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)

Adolescence represents a key time period for social development. Accordingly, the COVID-19 pandemic represents a distinct and possibly harmful disruption to social wellbeing in this cohort. Mental wellness in adolescents may be particularly negatively affected by limited social interactions with support systems and peers during COVID-19.

The present study was conducted in order to elucidate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health a cohort of adolescents. The adolescents were followed for two years with only the final timepoint occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adolescents were invited if they had participated in the initial two-year study with no exclusion criteria. Participants were sent an online survey including the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children, the Children’s Depression Inventory, the Differences in Emotion Regulation Scale, as well as a questionnaire on health, finances, lifestyle, and fear of COVID-19.

The survey was completed by 136 participants (53.7% female). Almost half of participants (44.1%) reported a negative financial impact secondary to COVID-19. Overall, depression and anxiety scores increased during COVID-19 with males reporting the highest depression scores and females reporting the highest anxiety scores. Negative mental health symptoms were also associated with reported COVID-19 impacts on financial wellbeing, lifestyle, and fear. However, this study was limited as included a lack of information on support systems as well as a homogenous study population. Nonetheless, the results of the present longitudinal study suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic may negatively impact adolescents directly and through impacting lifestyle factors.

Click to read the study in American Psychologist

Image: PD

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