Skip to main content

All Access Subscription

Get unlimited access to our full publication and article library.

Get Access Now

Interested in Group Sales? Learn more

<p>Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health conditions among Americans age 3 to 17 years were trending negatively.</p>

Report: Anxiety, Depression Up Significantly Among U.S. Children 2016-2020

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Between 2016 and 2020, the number of children ages 3 to 17 years diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29% and those with depression by 27%, according to a recently published analysis conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

HRSA researchers pulled information from the National Survey of Children’s Health, a population-based, national survey of randomly selected children. Parents or caregivers of these children living in non-institution settings completed surveys by mail or web. Researchers used a sample size of 174,551 children. The authors studied these children while considering common health conditions, positive health behaviors, healthcare access and use, and family/caretaker well-being and stressors.

Coupled with the rise in anxiety and depression, investigators observed an 18% decline in children experiencing at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day and a 7% decline in the proportion of young children who were read to every day. The authors also noted various declines in other key areas, such as access to proper insurance and attending annual preventive medical visits. For family/caregivers, there were troubling trends in job stability, coping with the demands of child-rearing, and overall mental well-being. Certainly, the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic did not do any favors for anyone.

“The pandemic has been particularly difficult on our children, who have been as scared and confused as the rest of us were,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Today’s study confirms what all too many of us know and feel in our daily lives: COVID-19 was an exceptional burden on the mental well-being of our nation’s families, including kids.”

“Our research highlights a critical need to support both children and their caregivers to improve families’ mental and emotional well-being,” Michael Warren, MD, associate administrator of HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau and co-author of the study, said. “This includes ensuring access to timely health care services and addressing social determinants of health to support children and families’ overall well-being.”

Earlier this month, President Biden announced a national strategy to address the national mental health crisis as part of his State of the Union address. In a report released in December 2021, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, called for “a whole-of-society effort” to address youth mental health.

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of ED Management, Medical Ethics Advisor, and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Reports.