Anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation among early adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Journal of adolescence


BACKGROUND: Anxiety and depression are among the most common and debilitating psychiatric disorders affecting youth, with both related to increased suicide risk. While rates of youth anxiety and depression were increasing before the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic further negatively impacted adolescent mental health. Unfortunately, few studies have examined prevalence of these concerns among early adolescents (ages 10-13) longitudinally during the pandemic.

METHOD: The current study examined self-reported anxiety and depression symptoms, and suicidal ideation amongst a general pediatrics population of 11- to 13-year-olds (n = 623) from March through September 2020 (early-pandemic) and approximately 7 months later (September 2020 through May 2021; mid-pandemic). Paired samples proportions were used to examine changes in prevalence of moderate to severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation from early- to mid-pandemic.

RESULTS: Results highlight high initial rates and stability in anxiety and suicidal ideation, as well as a significant increase in depression (42.9% increase; p < .05) among the full sample during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prevalance of concerns were greatest for females and Hispanic youth during the early-pandemic, and generally highest for females and Medicaid insured youth at mid-pandemic.

DISCUSSION: Results extend recent research and underscore the need for continued monitoring of mental health concerns across development for youth who grew up during the COVID-19 pandemic; highlighting the need for sustainable, effective, and accessible early detection, prevention, and intervention strategies. Improving these services is critical to support youth who experienced pandemic-related stressors, and to prepare for supporting youth during future disruptive and isolating events.

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ePub ahead of print