The number of teenagers with depression and anxiety has more than doubled over the course of the pandemic, a new study reveals.
The effects of the pandemic on young people have remained a major topic of concern throughout the past 13 months as lockdown measures have stifled social interaction and traditional school life.
Recent findings from a survey of secondary school teachers seem to confirm a negative impact, with just over 60% of respondents reporting mental health problems in students who were previously unknown to have them before the pandemic.
The new study looked at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on 5,000 teenagers from across the UK and discovered that the number of clinical depression cases rose from 14% to 35%, while cases of anxiety climbed from 13% to 29% in the first nine months of the pandemic.
Professor Mireille Toledano, lead author of the Imperial College London study, is worried that the findings could be an indication for more major mental health problems for young people in future, due to the crucial impact adolescence has on someone’s mental development.
“These might be short term effects but if they persist this could be very worrying,” said Prof Toledano told iNews. “Early life through to adolescence is a really critical period for lifelong health – half of adult mental health illness manifests by age 14 and by age 24 that figure is already 75 per cent.”
Read more: Almost two thirds of secondary school teachers report new mental health concerns among pupils
The worrying findings are coupled with figures suggesting that the use of social media and smartphones among teenagers has jumped by 80% within the same timeframe.
Alongside disrupting sleep patterns, increased social media use has been linked with the worsening of mental health in adolescents.
The Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, commented on the new research: “These initial findings illuminate how incredibly difficult this pandemic has been for many, especially children and young people, and I remain absolutely committed to supporting the mental wellbeing of everyone.”
Last month, the government confirmed a £79 million investment package specifically for improving mental health services for young people.
The funds will go toward increasing the number of schools and colleges across the country with a mental health support team whose roles include providing professional support for students as well as providing training for staff.
Written by Sylvie Ward
News reporter for Talking Mental Health