New Study Shows Adolescents With More Screen Time Suffered From Worse Mental Health During COVID

Data from a recent study shows that adolescents who had a healthy and supportive family and social circle have coped better against the harmful effects of the pandemic that has left an imprint on the mental health of adolescents all over the world.

The study, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and leading National Institutes of Health entities was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health on Monday. The survey used data of 3,000 adolescents acquired by Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study also showed that girls aged 11-14 are more likely to feel stress and psychological problems as a result of the pandemic.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA, said. “Early adolescence is a time when youth are already experiencing rapid change physically, emotionally, and socially, and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense disruption to this sensitive stage in life. This study helps us understand how modifiable lifestyle factors affect the mental health and well-being of adolescents, and it can inform the development of interventions to protect youth during major life stress. This is important now, as we continue to grapple with the pandemic, and also in future crisis response at the local or national level.”

The study was conducted on a longitudinal cohort of 3,000 individuals aged 11 to 14 years. The parents or caregivers of these adolescents had filled up the pre-pandemic assessment form by7 February 2020. The assessment included information about the externalizing problems, sleep disturbances, and youth reports of internalizing problems. After this, the same participants had to complete three COVID-19 surveys conducted separately between May and August 2020.

The researchers, then, used the information acquired to use data analysis to find out symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and finally come to the outcomes of the participants’ mental health situation. The top variables were categorized into eight different segments: demographic, coping behaviors, physical activities, relationships, resources, screen time, sleep, and others.

The research concluded that those who had more family time, physical activities, and better sleep were ranked among the predictors of positive affect while participants with more screen time, social media, and other exposures to the negative comments on racism and other social problems were among the top predictors of negative affect.

Fiona C. Baker, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Sciences at SRI International, Menlo Park, California, and principal investigator of the ABCD study site at SR said, “Focusing on what you can do to support young people, like maintaining as much of a routine as possible, walking at least 10 minutes a day, and strengthening family relationships, really matters during times of stress.”

However, the sample size that was researched did not have the full representation of the black and Hispanic community and most of the participants came from educated parents so the researchers believed that the sample was not the best representation of the U.S population however, the data collected can contribute immensely to the study of mental health in the coming future.

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