Anxiety and Depression: The Pandemic and Its Impact on the Mental Health of Youth


Multiple studies on the pandemic’s effect on mental health have shown an increase in the rates of anxiety and depression symptoms in youth.

According to the results of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, 1 in 3 teen girls and 1 in 5 teen boys have experienced new or worsening anxiety since March 2020.
Meanwhile, a report by the U.S. Surgeon General found that symptoms of anxiety and depression in youth doubled during the pandemic.

Read on to learn the factors that contribute to this recent increase in depression and anxiety in young people and what can be done to improve their mental wellness.

Causes of Worsening Mental Health in Teens and Pre-Teens

Mental wellness among young people had already been declining even before the pandemic.
According to the CDC, more than 1 in 3 high school students experienced persistent sadness and hopelessness in 2019.
Meanwhile, a report by WHO estimated that 3.6% of children aged 10 to 14 and 4.6% of teens aged 15 to 19 have experienced an anxiety disorder.

Preteens and teens are faced with many challenges, even in ordinary times.
They are faced with countless changes and must learn to navigate difficult situations at home, at school, and in social settings.
Now, young people must also deal with the changes and challenges brought by the pandemic.

There is no single reason why young people get anxious or depressed during the pandemic.
Instead, there are many triggers and factors that play a role in developing anxiety or depression. Some examples are:

  • Grief and loss: More than 140,000 children in the U.S. have had a parent or grandparent caregiver pass away due to COVID-19.
  • Feeling unmoored: For many young people, the COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic event that upended their lives and routines. Unpredictability and the inability to be in control of their lives are particularly difficult for teens and preteens to cope with.
  • Isolation: Stay-at-home orders and social distancing have forced young people to miss out on opportunities to socialize with their peers, such as at prom, football games, and other school activities. Dating—critical to the development of social skills, self-identity, and emotional maturity—has also been made difficult due to pandemic-related restrictions.

Anxiety and Depression in Young People: Identifying the Signs

Anxiety and depression manifest in different ways, but their symptoms often overlap.
The following are some of the most common symptoms of both mental health conditions in preteens and teens:

  • Irritability, unexplained outbursts, and other changes in behavior
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Spending more time alone
  • Physical changes, such as extreme fatigue, changes in eating habits, and headaches
  • A decline in academic performance
  • Low self-esteem and constant seeking of reassurance
  • Excessive Internet use

Addressing Anxiety and Depression in Teens and Preteens

Parents and caregivers may find that young people are often reluctant to talk about their emotions or moods. However, having a discussion is critical to gaining insight into the teen or preteen’s challenges and needs.
A discussion also lets teens and preteens know that they are loved, validated, and supported.

It is also critical to seek help from a mental health professional, especially if signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression last for more than two weeks.
They will conduct a screening to help with diagnosis and recommend interventions and treatments.
These may include medication and therapy.

Reach Out to a Licensed Therapist

The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health (CCBH) is staffed by a team of experienced and compassionate mental health professionals, including licensed clinical social workers (CSWs) and psychotherapists.
Our services include individual and family therapy, group skills training, and telehealth therapy.

Reach out to us today to learn more about our approach to mental wellness and our individualized treatment plans for anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.