Mar 15, 2022 - Health

Children's health issues getting worse

Data: JAMA pediatrics; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Critical measures of children's health are moving in the wrong direction in the U.S., according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

What it found: The pandemic took a large toll on children's mental health and overall household stability, but several of these trends had been building for years.

Details: Levels of anxiety and depression among children increased between 2016 and 2020, while daily physical activity decreased. More parents and caregivers reported struggling to cope with parenting demands and dealing with mental health issues of their own.

  • More children were disconnected from the health system, as the proportion of uninsured children rose significantly and the proportion of children with adequate and continuous insurance declined.
  • Specifically between 2019 and 2020 — covering the first year of the pandemic — there was an increase in children with behavioral or conduct problems, as well as a spike in child care disruptions that affected parental employment.
  • Preventive medical visits also decreased, and there was a 32% increase in reports of unmet health care needs between 2019 and 2020.

The good news: There was a drop in household food insufficiency over the study period, including between 2019 and 2020.

  • Daily reading also become more common among young children during the first year of the pandemic, and the proportion of kids getting enough sleep held steady.
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