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Insights and Trends

Understanding and Overcoming the Rising Adolescent Mental Health Crisis: 4 Factors

More than 44 percent of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021 – an increase from 27 percent in 2004, as noted by the CDC.1

In a recent report, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) shared its recommendations on why children and teens between the ages of eight and 18 should be screened for anxiety. The report also details the top factors contributing to these rising numbers – further highlighting the need for effectively behavioral health care for all ages.2

How hospitals can help their community’s youth

Behavioral health enables hospitals to treat a larger patient population, opening the door to patients already being treated for a physical illness, as well as patients who have yet to be diagnosed with a mental health illness. Integration also keeps patients within the same care setting, and therefore streamlines the recovery journey, reduces care cost and decreases readmission risk. A win for the hospital and a win for the community.

Four factors driving the current youth mental health crisis:3

    1. Social media: As social media continues to grow so will its impact, both negative and positive. Recent research from Cambridge University found that social media was strongly associated with worse mental health for girls ages 11 to 13 and boys ages 14 to 15.


    1. Lower social interaction: The pandemic played a substantial role in our world’s decrease in social interaction, and the long-term implications are beginning to surface, especially in the younger population. The report notes, “Teenagers who did not feel close to people at school or were not virtually connected to people during the pandemic reported higher rates of poor mental health and persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness.”


    1. Worldly stressors: An increase in technology and access to information has led to an over consumption of negative news surrounding topics like COVID-19, climate change and more. These worldwide issues have exacerbated adolescents' feelings of stress – leading to negative mental health outcomes.


  1. Differing parenting strategies: Experts have noted that there has been a rise in "accommodative" parenting in which parents remove barriers that may cause their children fear or discomfort. As a result, children are not able to release negative emotions in face of inevitable stressors or discomforts, and are then more likely to experience anxiety as they grow older.

Importance of anxiety screenings for children and teens

According to USPSTF, “untreated anxiety can lead to negative physical effects in the short-term, such as headaches and stomachaches, as well as poor academic performance and developmental delays in the long-term.”4 Another report from the Child Mind Institute found that childhood anxiety disorders have been linked to an increased risk for depression, anxiety, behavior problems and substance use disorders later in life.2

A member of the USPSTF stated that it is critical to screen for signs of anxiety during a child or teen’s annual check-up, but it is also important to incorporate it anytime they visit their primary care provider to help stay ahead of any potential signs.

Shining a light on adolescent mental health needs will allow hospitals to begin prioritizing behavioral health integration across their care continuum so that individuals can access this form of care at any age.

Read the full Advisory Board article here.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 31). New CDC data illuminate youth mental health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from
  2. Advisory Board. (2022, April 14). Youth Mental Health Crisis: USPSTF recommends anxiety screenings for children. Advisory Board. Retrieved June 6, 2022, from
  3. Thompson, D. (2022, May 25). Why American teens are so sad. The Atlantic. Retrieved June 6, 2022, from
  4. Opportunity for public comment. United States Preventive Services Taskforce. (2022, April 12). Retrieved June 6, 2022, from

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