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Expand chart

Teenagers' demand for mental health care skyrocketed last year amid the pandemic, even as their overall need for care declined, according to a new analysis by FAIR Health.

Why it matters: Parents, schools and pediatricians have been warning for months that kids aren't OK, and this analysis backs up their concern with numbers.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has been disruptive to the lives of Americans of all ages, but for teenagers, the isolation and change in routine comes during a critical developmental stage.

  • The toll that staying home has taken on children's mental health is one of many reasons schools should reopen, some experts say.

By the numbers: Mental health care claim lines — or individual health services — for children 13-18 doubled in March and April of last year, compared to 2019.

  • In contrast, the number of overall claim lines for this age group was about half of the 2019 level.
  • This trend continued on through November, although less drastically.

Details: Females were much likelier to require mental health care than males.

  • The percentage of all medical claim lines that were for intentional self-harm nearly doubled in March and April, compared to the same month in 2019. Claim lines for overdoses increased by 94.91% in March and 119.31% in April compared to the year before. Both remained elevated through November.
  • The most common diagnoses in teenagers were consistently major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorders. These conditions also became more prevalent, as a percentage of total medical claim lines, compared to 2019 levels.

What we're watching: Mental health issues can be situational, but that doesn't mean that once the pandemic ends, all will go back to normal.

  • Some children will likely require long-term treatment, something the U.S. health system has historically been bad at.

Go deeper

More schools are reopening in the U.S.

Students settle into a classroom in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

More than 72% of K-12 students are now attending schools that offer in-person or hybrid models of learning.

The big picture: The U.S. is seeing an almost-universal return of schools that were in-person as of November, as well as a gradual return in parts of the country that had been virtual for almost a year.

CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions

CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned states on Monday that "now is not the time" to lift public health restrictions, as the recent dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths "appear to be stalling."

Why it matters: While the average of 70,000 new infections and 2,000 daily deaths is nowhere near the extremely high levels recorded at the start of 2021, the figures are still a poor baseline to "stop a potential fourth surge" — especially with the threat posed by more contagious new variants, Walensky warned.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Pfizer CEO says company will submit data for children's vaccine to FDA in "days" — The new booster dilemma — U.S. has enough COVID vaccines to meet demand for kids, boosters.
  2. Health: New York vaccine mandate for state health workers goes into effect — The antivirals are (hopefully) coming — Long COVID: A disabling disease — Montana VA medical center to treat non-veterans amid COVID surge.
  3. Politics: Federal judge upholds Cincinnati health care system's COVID vaccine mandate — Bolsonaro isolating after health minister tests positive at UN summit.
  4. Education: UT docs show faculty frustration amid Gov. Abbott's latest COVID orders — Health care workers and teachers caught up in booster confusion.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

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