Teenage depression and teenage anxiety has more than doubled during the pandemic and could be storing up major health problems for the future, according to a major Government-backed study.
The decline in teenage mental well-being has been fuelled by disruption to their routines, uncertainty, reduced contact with friends and a fear of catching the virus.
This has prompted an 80 per cent increase in their social media and smartphone use, which is thought to have further contributed to their anxiety.
The pandemic has also had a profound effect on sleep patterns, the study found. The average teenager slept 60 per cent longer during school closures as they got up later in the morning, according to the preliminary findings from a major study of 5,000, 16 to 18 year olds that will be published shortly.
Professor Mireille Toledano the Imperial College London is the scientist leading the study. Adolescence is a critical period in a person’s development that can have a bearing on their mental health and quality of life for decades to come, she said.
She said: “We’ve all been touched by the lockdown but children and their parents, in particular from school closures, have really been affected.”
“These might be short term effects but if they persist this could be very worrying. 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,” she said.
The study found that the proportion of teenagers who are clinically depressed more than doubled from 14 to 35 per cent during the first nine months of the pandemic. Meanwhile anxiety orders have jumped from 13 per cent to 29 per cent.
If there is a teen in your life that you think might be needing some support there is help that can be accessed on the NHS website, and the Young minds website.
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