A new study found that the mental health of teen girls may have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The disconnection from friends, changes in routine, and isolation may be contributing factors.
Using more than 59,000 responses from surveys on Icelandic teens, researchers found that rates of depression and worsened mental well-being increased among both adolescent boys and girls during the pandemic compared to earlier levels, but girls were significantly more affected.
“Developmentally, teens are seeking independence, peer connections, and greater self-expression as they formulate their identities”, explains Rebekah Roulier, LMHC, deputy director at Doc Wayne Youth Services in Boston. “However, the reduction in social experiences increased dependency on the family unit, and created the loss of milestones i.e., first jobs or graduation celebrations, which has overwhelmed most teens’ ability to cope.” People between 16 and 18 years old were more negatively affected than younger teens during the pandemic, which may have been at least partly been a result of disruptions in education.
Why are girls facing worse mental health outcomes?
Sarah Harte, LICSW, director at The Dorm, which offers therapy and other services to support the well-being of young adults explains, “While both male and female teenagers are significantly impacted by hormone changes through puberty, teenage girls often experience increased anxiety and depression as their hormones cycle. Teenage boys are not often socialized to be aware of or discuss their emotional struggles, so they may be less able to identify how they are feeling, or may feel more shame about self-reporting feelings of depression and anxiety. Adolescent girls exhibit mental health symptoms differently than adolescent males, and girls at this age typically have more skills around the expression of difficulties.”
What can you do as a parent to help your teenager?
Parents can try to engage in open communication with their teens and encourage them to open up about what they’re going through. Communication can be as simple as asking open-ended questions and actively listening. Parents should also look out for warning signs that their teen may need professional mental health support. These include:
- Sleeping more or less
- Changes in diet and weight
- Personality shifts
- Drop in school performance
- Avoiding social connections
- Trouble focusing on daily tasks
- Emotional withdrawal
- Paranoid behaviour
How The Eaves can help
At The Eaves, we have a variety of trained professionals that can offer support for children, adolescents and families who are struggling with their mental health during the pandemic. Please contact the referrals team on 01483 917000 who will be happy to help source a suitable therapist for you. You can also send us an enquiry. Click here to find out more.