What impact has it had on the prevalence of child mental health in the United States?

In a recent article published in JAMA network open, Researchers asked whether the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic increased the incidence of mental health (MH) conditions in adolescents and pediatric patients aged 6 to 18 years in the United States (USA) A cross-sectional study was conducted to assess .

Study: Prevalence of Mental Health Diagnosis Among Commercially Insured Children and Adolescents in the United States Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Image Credit: Ground Picture/Shutterstock.comstudy: Prevalence of mental health examinations among commercially insured children and adolescents in the United States before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image Credit: Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of children, adolescents, and adolescents in the United States.

Lack of access to care services, social isolation, increased financial burden on families due to unemployment, and increased use of social media have greatly disrupted their lives.

U.S. health agencies focused on monitoring the mental health of U.S. youth have deemed the COVID-19 pandemic a state of emergency as it appears to exacerbate MH conditions among U.S. youth. rice field.

However, studies evaluating trends in pediatric MH diagnosis during the COVID-19 pandemic are lacking.

About research

In this study, researchers assessed the prevalence of MH diagnoses in US children and adolescents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, she assessed three periods of the COVID-19 pandemic as follows:

i) The pre-pandemic period from January 2018 to March 2020.

ii) The initial pandemic period beginning in April 2020 and ending in September 2020, equivalent to the US school closure period.and

iii) the recent pandemic period ending March 2022 and beginning in October 2020 when schools reopened in the United States.

For study data, the research team first used anonymized data from a commercial health claims database, from which the monthly percentage of children/young people diagnosed with MH between January 2018 and March 2022 was calculated by age. and extracted by stratification by gender.

They assessed the prevalence of four MH conditions: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, depression, and eating disorders.

The researchers performed an intermittent time series analysis to compare prevalence patterns/trends for each MH disease diagnosed before the pandemic and during the recent pandemic. They did not include fluid conditions in the early period of the pandemic, i.e. the interrupted time series analysis, to allow enough time for the pandemic to develop.

The team analyzed all data using SAS statistical software v.9.4 between October 2022 and March 2023 and calculated two-sided post-analytical 95% confidence intervals (CI).

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and strictly followed the Enhanced Reporting of Epidemiological Observational Research (STROBE) guidelines.

Results and conclusions

Approximately 1.7 million U.S. youth with commercial insurance provided study data each calendar month throughout the study period. Of these, on average, there were 440,722 girls aged 6 to 12 and 461,331 boys aged 6 to 12, 410,373 adolescents aged 13 to 18, and 426,358 boys.

Among adolescents, women aged 13–18 years showed a rapid rise in the prevalence of all four diagnosed MH diseases during the recent pandemic. The prevalence of all MH diagnoses (except depression) in this group increased rapidly during the pandemic.

Interestingly, in the two pandemic years of 2020–2022, the prevalence of eating disorders among adolescent females aged 13–18 years doubled, and between March 2020 and October 2020, the prevalence of eating disorders doubled. It increased from 1,065 to 13,99 in the interim, and further to 2,058 by March 2022.

Adolescent males aged 13 to 18 years had a significantly lower incidence of eating disorders, but trends were similar compared to females of the same age category.

The authors noted no change in the prevalence of other MH diagnoses before and during the pandemic among male adolescents aged 13 to 18 years.

The prevalence of all MH conditions, except ADHD, was lower in adolescents aged 6 to 12 years than in adolescents. Changes in the prevalence of other MH diagnoses were comparable but less pronounced among girls aged 6–12 years and adolescents.

The authors noted no change in prevalence of other MH diagnoses between ages 13 and 18 years before and during the pandemic.

The study data is limited to commercially insured adolescents and does not include publicly insured or uninsured children. Heterogeneity was thereby introduced into the sampled population. Similarly, documented MH diagnoses were not representative of the actual MH status of US youth.

Nevertheless, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the observed trends in MH diagnosis differed by age and gender. During the COVID-19 pandemic, young people, especially female adolescents, emerged as the most vulnerable population, with a significant surge in the incidence of MH diagnoses, especially eating disorders.

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