6.7 percent increase seen in youth with any mental health emergency department visit, and larger increase (22.1 percent) seen for female teens
By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter
WEDNESDAY, July 19, 2023 (HealthDay News) — During the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, pediatric mental health emergency department visits increased, especially among adolescent girls, according to a study published online July 12 in JAMA Psychiatry.
Lindsay Overhage, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined youth acute mental health care use during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic in a cross-sectional analysis of commercial health insurance claims. Of 4.1 million commercial insurance enrollees aged 5 to 17 years, 17,614 and 16,815 had at least one mental health emergency department visit in the baseline year and pandemic year 2, respectively (March 2019 to February 2020 and March 2021 to February 2022, respectively).
The researchers found a 6.7 percent increase in youth with any mental health emergency department visit from baseline to pandemic year 2. A larger increase was seen among adolescent girls (22.1 percent). There was an 8.4 percent increase seen in the fraction of emergency department visits that resulted in psychiatric admission, and a 3.8 percent increase in the mean length of inpatient psychiatric stay. The fraction of episodes with prolonged boarding (two or more midnights) before admission to an inpatient psychiatric unit increased 76.4 percent. All increases were statistically significant.
“These data can inform the continuing debate about how to best address the mental health crisis and reduce emergency department boarding,” the authors write.
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