Jun 16, 2022 - News

Health of Colorado kids crumbles amid COVID

Illustration of wooden child’s play block with an exclamation point

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked major havoc on the health of Colorado kids, a new state report reveals.

Why it matters: The analysis, based on Colorado's only comprehensive survey on youth health and wellbeing, bolsters preliminary data showing how hard the last two years have been on young ones.

Details: The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey gathered voluntary responses from more than 100,000 students across 340 public middle and high schools in the fall of 2021.

  • The survey found that 40% of students experienced feelings of depression in the prior year, up from 35% since the last poll in 2019.
  • More than half of respondents said they experienced stress on a daily basis — more now than before the pandemic.

Zoom in: When it comes to children of color and LGBTQ+ youth, the negative health impacts are even more pronounced.

  • 26% of surveyed transgender kids and 10% of multiracial youth attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 7% of their cisgender and white peers.

What they're saying: "Not surprisingly, the data indicate that youth have been struggling during the pandemic, as we all have," Colorado health department director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said in a statement.

  • "Importantly, the survey points to the need to support and increase protective factors for youth of color and LGBTQ+ youth," she added.

The other side: The poll illuminated several positive trends, including a reduction in substance abuse and perceived access to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

  • Moreover, the percentages of youth who have seriously considered (17%), planned (13%) or attempted (7%) suicide in the past year have not risen since 2015.

Zoom out: Nationwide, a historic number of kids are reporting being sad and stressed.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics declared the mental health crisis among children and teens a national emergency.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended that all children aged 8 and up be screened for anxiety due to its prevalence.

The bottom line: The stress and social isolation of the pandemic have taken their toll across all age groups in ways we may not understand for years.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more