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.

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