As per a new national poll in the United States, the lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have taken a heavy toll on the mental health of teenagers. According to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, 46 per cent of parents say their teenagers have shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition. This began since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Also, the parents of teenage girls were more likely to say that their children have developed depressive symptoms.
Pandemic impacts mental health
The poll co-director and paediatrician Gary L Freed said, “Just as young people are at the age of being biologically primed to seek independence from their families, COVID-19 precautions have kept them at home”. He added, “Pandemic-related lifestyle changes have wreaked havoc on teens’ lives, with many experiencing disruptions to their normal routines. Our poll suggests that pandemic-era changes may have had a significant mental health impact for some teenagers”.
The poll included responses from 977 parents of teens ages 13-18. It was concluded that one out of three teenage girls and one out of five teenage boys have experienced new or worsening anxiety. Parents of teenage girls stand at 36 per cent while the parents of teenage boys stand at 19 per cent. In the case of depression or sadness, the parents of teenage girls stand at 31 per cent, while the parents of teenage boys stand at a 18 per cent. Also, similar proportions of parents report negative changes in their teen’s sleep. There are also cases of withdrawing from family and aggressive behaviour.
Freed said, “Isolation during the pandemic may be triggering new problems for some teens but for others, the situation has exacerbated existing emotional health issues”. Parents who were a part of the poll said that their kids seem to be hardest hit by changes in social interactions over the last year. A three out of four teenagers have been reporting a negative impact on their connections with friends.
Speaking about peer groups and social interactions, Freed said, “Peer groups and social interactions are a critical part of development during adolescence. But these opportunities have been limited during the pandemic”. He added, “Many teens may feel frustrated, anxious and disconnected due to social distancing and missing usual social outlets, like sports, extracurricular activities and hanging out with friends”.
He also spoke about the role that parents can play as he said that they can help their teenagers in coping up with the stress of the pandemic. He talked about strategies that the parents can follow. He said, “One of the most important things for parents to do is keep lines of communication open; ask their teen how they are doing and create the space for them to speak honestly so they can provide help when needed”.