A survey released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed teenagers saying they endured put-downs, insults and other emotional abuse from adults in their homes during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
“These data echo a cry for help,” Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC’s acting principal deputy director, said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing.”
According to the survey, 55% said they were cursed at or suffered verbal insults from an adult in the home, with 11% saying they had been physically abused. 66% found it difficult to complete their schoolwork during the pandemic, the respondents said.
The survey findings were published as a series of reports from the CDC. They are based on the responses of a group of 7,705 nationally representative high school students.
Those who took the survey completed the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey in the first half of 2021 about their experiences from the previous year when the country was in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the survey, emotional abuse was defined as swearing, insulting or belittling; physical abuse was defined as hitting, beating, kicking or physically hurting.
According to the CDC, nearly three-quarters of the students who participated in the survey identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Nearly two-thirds of those participating were young women.
“Our data make it clear that young people experienced significant disruption and adversity during the pandemic and are experiencing a mental health crisis,” Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, said.
Ethier says that while the results of the respondents about their feelings during the 2020 lockdown are striking, it is unclear what role the lockdown played in those results.
“There is no way to know specifically whether our findings reflect something new due to the pandemic or existing levels of abuse from prior to the pandemic,” Ethier said.
Mental health issues among American youth were increasing even before the pandemic, according to a study from the CDC that was released in February.
According to the report, which drew on data collected between 2013 and 2019, 1 in 5 teenagers had at some point experienced an episode of major depression.
Major depression was defined as “unshakeable and worrisome feelings of sadness and hopelessness lasting for at least two weeks.”
Research conducted in 2013 showed that self-reports of parental abuse were much lower, with 13.9% of respondents ages 14 to 17 reporting emotional abuse during the preceding year, and 5.5% reporting physical abuse, The New York Times reported.
In December, the U.S. surgeon general issued a public advisory, calling the decline in mental health in young people during the pandemic “devastating.”
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