March 3, 2021

Study: Impact of COVID-19 on pediatric mental health

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

This study by FAIR Health on mental health claims for individuals aged 13 to 18 years in March and April 2020 finds:

  • Mental health claims doubled, compared to the year before, while medical claims decreased by half, and this continued through November 2020.
  • In the Northeast region, there was a 333.93% increase in intentional self-harm, a rate higher than in any other region in any month studied.
  • Intentional self-harm as a percentage of all medical claims increased 90.71% from March 2019 to March 2020 and 99.83% from April 2019 to April 2020.
  • Overdoses increased 94.91% in March 2020 and 119.31% in April 2020, compared to 2019.
  • Substance abuse increased 64.64% in March 2020 and 62.69% in April 2020, compared to the previous year.
  • Generalized anxiety disorders increased 93.6%, major depressive disorders increased 83.9%, and adjustment disorders increased 89.7% in April 2020, compared to 2019.

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Though children aged 6 years to 12 years were not the focus of this study, they also had changes. There were increases in obsessive-compulsive disorders and tic disorders, while attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders decreased.

The analysis included more than 32 billion private healthcare claim records.

The findings of this study show that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of young people, which has implications for parents, educators, policy makers, providers, and payors, the researchers say.

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