Teenage Girls Were Behind a Surge in Mental Health Hospitalizations

As the coronavirus pandemic enters its second year, more American families are taking their children with depression and suicidal thoughts to the emergency room for help.

A large-scale analysis of private insurance claims shows that this surge in acute mental health crises was largely driven by a single group: girls aged 13 to 17.

In the second year of the pandemic, there was a 22% increase in adolescent girls visiting the emergency room for mental health emergencies compared to the pre-pandemic baseline, as well as an increase in suicidal behavior and eating disorders. the report said. A study of 4.1 million patients It was published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry magazine.

Records show that in the same period from March 2021 to March 2022, there was a 9 percent reduction in teenage emergency room visits for mental health problems.

Overall, the proportion of young people visiting emergency rooms for mental health issues increased by 7% compared to the pre-pandemic baseline. The study focused on privately insured Americans and did not know what was happening in Medicaid or uninsured households.

Although the study did not attempt to explain the large disparities between teenage boys and girls, the authors found that school disruption, peer isolation, and domestic conflict hit girls particularly hard. He pointed out that it was a possible stress factor.

“I was particularly concerned that it might be driven by suicidal thoughts, suicidal behavior, and self-harm,” said study author Lindsay Overhage, a PhD candidate in the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Policy. said.

No single explanation has been found for the gender difference in mental health emergency admissions, a trend that predates the pandemic.

A study released in 2022 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that teens are heavily impacted by parental unemployment and food insecurity. more than half of adolescents They report emotional abuse by their parents, and more than 1 in 10 report physical abuse. Two-thirds of her students said they had difficulty completing school assignments.

According to data from the UK, These difficulties were most pronounced among older girls from poor families.the gap is narrowing among wealthy households.

Christine M. Crawford, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Boston Medical Center, said the gap may also reflect attitudes toward mental health care, with teenage girls more likely to share their distress with each other. Said expensive.

Dr Crawford said the girls’ peers “may be suggesting to them that they should talk to their parents about what’s going on, or go get help.” No,’ he said. Social media platforms became a key factor during the pandemic, she said, as teens were “searching on TikTok about mental health and the mental health system.”

Emergency room visits are never a good way to provide acute mental health care, but they have been particularly problematic during the pandemic. That’s because patients often waited too long for inpatient psychiatric beds to become available, according to a JAMA claims investigation.

In the second year of the pandemic, the study found a 76 percent increase in the number of young people who spent two or more nights in the emergency room before being hospitalized.

Long waits, called boarding, progressively increased stress levels in young people at risk, and their parents “often compared the environment to prison,” the study said.

Heiden Haskamp, ​​an economist in the Department of Health Policy at Harvard Medical School and one of the study’s authors, said the increase was “dramatic, very dramatic,” and that acute mental health crises in emergency rooms said it was particularly concerning because of the poor provision of care for

He said staffing shortages were most likely the core factor behind the surge in passenger numbers. She said financial incentives, especially mental health care reimbursement rates, need to be adjusted to ensure adolescents receive more care.

“Certainly, it would be remarkable for the Surgeon General to come out and say that this is the defining public health crisis of our time,” she said. “But policy change takes time, so we need to act more quickly.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button