Study: Coronavirus Pandemic Takes Huge Toll on Teens’ Mental Health

Study: Coronavirus Pandemic Takes Huge Toll on Teens’ Mental Health

According to FAIR Health, intentional self-harm claims were up by 334 percent.

The yearlong coronavirus pandemic has taken a profound mental health toll on teenagers and young adults, according to a new national study of medical records and insurance claims.

FAIR Health, a nonprofit that collects data for the largest database of privately billed health insurance claims in the United States, was able to examine thirty-two billion records to closely study individuals in the thirteen to eighteen and nineteen to twenty-two age ranges.

What the researchers found was that in March and April of 2020, mental health claims for those aged thirteen to eighteen roughly doubled compared to the same two months the year prior. In the same age range, claims for overdoses surged to about 95 percent of all medical claims in March 2020 and nearly 120 percent in April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The analysis also discovered that after comparing August 2019 to August 2020 in the Northeast region for the thirteen to eighteen age group, there was a 334 percent increase in intentional self-harm claim lines as a percentage of all medical claim lines. Moreover, claim lines for generalized anxiety disorder climbed 93.6 percent, while major depressive disorder claim lines increased 83.9 percent.

In general, the nineteen to twenty-two age group had mental health trends that were similar to the younger age group but were less pronounced.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on mental health, particularly on that of young people,” Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, said in a statement.

“The findings in our new report have implications for all those responsible for the care of young people, including providers, parents, educators, policymakers, and payors.”

Other recent studies have pointed toward the fact that adults are not immune to mental health issues amid the ongoing pandemic.

Rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns have surged since last March—with 46 percent of full-time employees reporting such issues compared to 39 percent before the viral outbreak, according to a poll conducted by the insurance company The Standard that surveyed more than fourteen hundred workers.

“Our research shows the pandemic is increasing the strain of both mental health and substance abuse issues on workers,” the report said. “And that increase is clearly affecting their productivity on the job more now than before the pandemic.”

Generational differences were also found to be significant. For Gen Z and Millennials, 71 percent and 59 percent, respectively, reported dealing with mental health issues over the past twelve months, compared to just 22 percent of baby boomers and 36 percent of Gen Xers.

“Gen Z and Millennials are affected by behavioral health issues during the pandemic at much higher rates than older generations,” the report wrote. “The pandemic adds or compounds stressors that younger workers were already coping with, such as less job security, less housing stability, more debt, and lower wage earnings than previous generations.”

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters.