CDC: 37% of US teens had poor mental health in pandemic

Depressed teen girl wearing mask on school stairway
Depressed teen girl wearing mask on school stairway

Halfpoint / iStock

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today that almost 4 out of 10 US adolescents are experiencing poor mental health, a trend exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thirty-seven percent of high school students reported poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless, according to the study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

In addition, 55% reported experiencing emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, according to a separate MMWR study based on the same survey.

'Deeply troubling' findings

The findings come from an anonymous survey of 7,700 teens at public and private high schools conducted between January and June of 2021.

"Many of the findings are deeply troubling, some with long-term consequences," said Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention today at a press conference.

Twenty-nine percent of teens polled said a parent or adult in their home had lost employment during the pandemic, and 24% said they had gone hungry in the past year. Roughly 60% of respondent said they had difficulty completing schoolwork.

LGBTQ and non-White students reported worsening mental health during the pandemic, and girls were more likely than boys to report suicidal ideations.

"Our data exposes cracks," said Kathleen Ethier, PhD, the director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health at the CDC. "All students were impacted by the pandemic, but not all students were impacted equally."

Mermin and Ethier both said the pandemic had worsened mental health trends already seen in US teens. Notably, however, students who said they felt connected to their school communities fared much better than those who were not.

CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, MD, MPH said in a CDC news release, "The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students' mental wellbeing. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future."

CDC drops cruise ship warning

Yesterday the CDC dropped the COVID-19 health warning for cruise ships, the Associated Press reports. Cruise ship operators said the move will be helpful as Americans begin to plan their summer vacations.

The health warning had been in place since March 2020, after hundreds of passengers aboard the Diamond Princess were sickened with COVID-19 after a 2-week quarantine off the coast of Japan.

The United States reported 38,108 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 1,221 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.

The 7-day average of new daily cases is 27,621, with 702 daily deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.

Though the decline in cases is welcome news after the Omicron surge, the decline has resulted in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing levels in the country to drop to their lowest point in 8 months, falling by 75% since the beginning of the year, ABC News reports.

The drop in PCR testing—considered to be highly accurate—is raising concerns about the ability to sequence the virus and detect and track new variants.

Shanghai to extend lockdown

In global COVID-19 developments, amid more cases today, Shanghai will delay lifting a lockdown in the eastern part of the city that was set to end tomorrow evening. China confirmed 8,454 new cases today, 6,651 of them asymptomatic, mostly in Shanghai.

In other global news, Hong Kong has 6,646 new cases today, continuing a slow, steady decline in cases.

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