Everyone has been struggling through the COVID 19 pandemic. From isolation and huge lifestyle changes, to uncertainty about the future, individuals, parents, and families have been trying to cope during this time of COVID 19. Teen health is being heavily affected by the changes the pandemic has brought on.
Are you a teen or parent struggling during these unprecedented times? Well, you're not alone.
For teens, pandemic restrictions have meant virtual school, less time with friends and cancelation of activities like sports, band concerts, school club meetings, and prom. These lifestyle changes and disruption of normal routine has had a significant impact on the mental and physical health of teenagers. Let’s talk about the specific ways teen health and wellness has been affected.
A national poll of parents of teens, released in March by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, shows that nearly half of parents surveyed said their teen has shown signs of a new or worsening mental
health condition since the start of the pandemic. How has their mental health changed? One way is the anxiety level. Nationally representative poll results from 977 parents of teens ages 13-18 show that 1 in 3 teen girls and 1 in 5 teen boys have experienced new or worsening anxiety since March 2020. The CDC saw a 51% increases in suicide attempts by adolescent girls during the pandemic, another statistic showing how much youth have been affected by the pandemic mentally and emotionally.
That same poll shows that most parents (73%) report that COVID-19 has had a very or somewhat negative impact on their teen’s ability to interact with their friends. It is obvious that this pandemic has made it hard or impossible for some teens to have a healthy social environment. Adolescence is a developmental time when young people are supposed to be gaining independence. Social distancing makes it difficult for teens to make friends at school and a virtual learning environment can be isolating.
Teens have been less active, because they are isolated inside and spending a lot more time at home. Even without isolation, sports and recreational activities are now more limited. Social distancing and pandemic restrictions have made it more difficult for teens to be physically fit. It is hard to be motivated to exercise when you are stuck at home or no longer allowed to play sports.
Screen Time and Sleeping Patterns
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is important for staying healthy. Virtual school and use of electronic devices are both factors that can affect sleep schedules. In this technological age, it is evident that teens spend large amounts of time on their phones on social media. Studies show that teens suffer more sleep problems if they use mobile devices in the bedroom and in general are on a screen for large portions of the day. The pandemic has caused teens to be in their room for longer periods of time and engage with their mobile devices more during the day.
What can we do to help teens?
Be aware of the problems. As a teen or parent, admitting that you or your teen are suffering socially, mentally, emotionally, physically, is the first step to getting healthy. There are many ways we can cope and stay healthy during COVID and the uncertain times that lie ahead. We can have these conversations with teens about what problems they are facing and come up with creative solutions. Be a part of the conversation and the solution.
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