New CDC analyses, released today, shed additional light on the mental health of U.S. high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a disproportionate level of threats some students faced.
According to the new data, in 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless during the last year. The new analyzes also outline some of the serious challenges young people have faced during the pandemic:
- More than half (55%) reported being emotionally abused by a parent or other adult at home, including swearing at, insulting or putting the student down.
- 11% experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult at home, including hitting, hitting, kicking, or physically injuring the student.
- More than a quarter (29%) reported that a parent or other adult in their household lost their job.
Before the pandemic, mental health was worsening among high school students, according to previous CDC data.pdf icon
“These data are a cry for help,” said CDC Deputy Director Debra Houry, MD, MPH “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental well-being. Our research shows that youth environments with the right support can reverse these trends and help our young people now and in the future.”
Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth and women reported higher levels of poor mental health. emotional abuse by a parent or caregiver; and having attempted suicide by their peers.
Additionally, over a third (36%) of students said they experienced racism before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. The highest levels were reported among Asian students (64%) and black students and multiracial students (55%). The research cannot determine the extent to which events during the pandemic contributed to the reported racism. However, experiences of racism among youth have been linked to poor mental health, academic performance, and lifelong health risk behaviors.
School connectivity has provided critical protection for students during COVID-19
The findings also highlight that a sense of care, support and belonging at school – called ‘school connectedness’ – had a significant impact on students during a period of severe disruption. Youth who felt connected to adults and peers at school were significantly less likely than those who did not to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (35% vs. 53%). that they seriously thought about attempting suicide (14% vs. 26%). or attempted suicide (6% vs. 12%). However, less than half (47%) of young people reported feeling close to people at school during the pandemic.
“School connectivity is key to addressing youth adversity at any time – especially during times of severe disruption,” said Kathleen A. Ethier, PhD, Director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “Students need our support now more than ever, whether it’s ensuring their schools are inclusive and safe, or providing opportunities to participate in their communities and be mentored by supportive adults.”
We all have a role to play in helping young people recover from the challenges during COVID-19
Young people with poor mental health may struggle with school and grades, decision-making and their health. Mental health problems in youth are often associated with other health and behavioral risks, such as increased risk of drug use, violence, and higher-risk sexual behaviors.
Schools are critical partners in supporting student health and well-being. In addition to education, they provide opportunities for academic, social, mental, and physical health services that can help protect against negative outcomes. However, schools are facing unprecedented disruptions during the pandemic and cannot face these complex challenges alone.
“In the face of adversity, support from schools, families and communities protects adolescents from potentially devastating consequences,” said Jonathan Mermin, MD, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, chief of the CDC. School health monitoring and treatment center. “This data tells us what works. So what will it take for our schools and communities to help youth meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond?”
This data, published as MMWR Surveillance Supplement, are from the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey (ABES), CDC’s first nationally representative survey of public and private high school students to assess the well-being of US youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, CDC conducted the survey during January – June 2021.
CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health on mental health among students: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/mental-health/index.htm.
For more information from CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and TB Prevention, visit www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom