Record levels of sadness among teen girls, CDC reports

Photo of author

Nearly three in five teen girls will report feeling persistent sadness in 2021, double the rate of boys and one in three girls have seriously considered attempting suicide, according to data released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Did.

The findings, based on surveys given to teens nationwide, also showed higher levels of violence, depression and suicidal thoughts among gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. The agency found that more than one in five of these students reported attempting suicide in the year before the survey.

Rates of sadness are the highest recorded in a decade, reflecting a long-running national tragedy that has only been made worse by the isolation and stress of the pandemic.

,I think there’s really no question what this data is telling us, said Dr. Kathleen Ethier, chief of the CDC’s Adolescent and School Health Program. “Young people are telling us they are in trouble.”

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey was administered in the fall of 2021 to 17,000 teens in high schools across the United States. The survey is done every two years, and rates of mental health problems have risen with each report since 2011, Dr. Ethier said.

“There was a mental health crisis before the pandemic – it didn’t get everyone’s attention the way it does now,” said Dr. Corey Green, director of behavioral health education and integration in pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Still, Dr. Green said she’s seeing more of her younger patients test positive on screening for depression. “The pandemic has led to greater social isolation — a risk factor for depression,” she said.

They also noted that symptoms of depression sometimes show up differently in boys and girls, which may not be fully reflected in the survey. Although girls with depression often have persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, as asked in the survey, boys with depression often display irritability or aggression, she said.

On a handful of subjects, survey results showed that teens were doing better than in previous years. For example, they reported lower rates of illicit drug use and bullying.

But nearly 57 percent of girls and 69 percent of lesbian, gay or bisexual teens reported feeling sad every day for at least two weeks during the past year. And 14 percent of girls, and 20 percent of lesbian, gay or bisexual teens said they had been coerced into sex at some point in their lives.

The first smartphone was released in 2012, said Dr. Victor Fornari, vice president of child and adolescent psychiatry for Northwell Health, New York’s largest health system. Although its full impact on adolescents’ mental health is still unknown, he said, there is “no question” of a connection between social media use and dramatic increases in suicidal behavior and depressive moods.

“Kids are now more vulnerable to cyberbullying and critical comments like ‘I hate you’, ‘nobody likes you,'” he said. “It’s like a harp in his heart every time.”

He said the number of teen visits to the emergency room at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, where he practices, has risen dramatically in recent decades. In 1982, 250 emergency room visits were made by suicidal teens. By 2010, the number had increased to 3,000. By 2022, it was 8,000.

“We don’t have enough doctors to take care of all these children,” Dr. Fornari said.

The CDC survey follows another bleak report released by the agency last week that showed suicide rates among young Americans and people of color were up after two years of declines.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or for a list of additional resources.

Leave a Comment