New Delhi: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a long-lasting impact on the mental health and substance use among adolescents, according to a study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal. The research is based on survey responses from a nationwide sample of over 64,000 13–18-year-old North American and Icelandic adolescents assessed prior to and up to two years into the pandemic. Researchers at Columbia University in the US and colleagues had in a 2021 study found an increase in depressive symptoms and decrease in mental well-being among 13–18-year-old adolescents within one year of the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A decline in substance use, in particular cigarette smoking, e-cigarette use and alcohol intoxication, was also observed.
Expanding on these findings, the new study shows that the negative effect on adolescent mental health persisted up to two years into the pandemic.
It is worrisome that we still see an increase in mental health problems among adolescents two years into the pandemic. And this is occurring despite social restrictions having been eased in Iceland, said Thorhildur Halldorsdottir, an assistant professor at Reykjavik University in Iceland, and senior author of the study.
The initial decrease in cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use observed shortly after the arrival of the pandemic was also maintained up to two years into the pandemic, the researchers said.
However, the frequency of adolescent alcohol intoxication appeared to be returning to pre-pandemic levels, they said.
It is of course positive to see that the reduction in cigarette smoking and vaping has been maintained, said Ingibjorg Eva Thorisdottir, chief data analyst at Iceland-based research consultancy Planet Youth, and lead author of the study.
We will need to monitor alcohol intoxication among adolescents in years to come, especially given the increase in mental health problems, Ms Thorisdottir said.
The study also examined the association of immigration status, residency, parental social support and nightly sleep duration with adolescent mental health and substance use.
Parental social support and an average of 8 hours or more of sleep per night was associated with better mental health and less substance use among adolescents, the researchers said.
The relationship between immigration status and residency with adolescent mental health was less clear, they said.
These findings suggest that stress exposure, like the COVID-19 pandemic, affects all adolescents to some extent rather than only vulnerable subgroups.
John Allegrante, a professor at Columbia University, and a senior collaborating investigator on the study said,
Policymakers should consider implementing large-scale evidence-based prevention efforts focusing on depressive symptoms to mitigate the negative effect of the pandemic.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.