The number of teenage girls getting diagnosed with depression seems to have doubled in Israel, as compared to the statistics before the coronavirus pandemic struck the country. The use of antipsychotics and antidepressants amongst these teenage girls has risen by 68% and 40% respectively. A study was conducted in Israel that involved about 200,000 12 to 17-year-old girls and its results were recently published. The results indicate that the pandemic appears to have had a more severe impact on the developing mind of teen girls, whereas teen boys seem to have come out of it relatively unscathed.
However, experts believe that boys have also been impacted, but in ways that cannot be determined by the data. According to the numbers, there was an increase in depression diagnoses from 4.8 girls for every 1,000 to 8.1 girls for every 1,000 between 2019 and 2021. During the same time period, there was an increase in the use of antidepressants amongst girls from 8.8 to 13.8 for every 1,000 girls. There was also a rise in anxiety diagnoses amongst girls, which went from 8.3 to 11.8 per 1,000 girls from 2019 to 2021. As far as stress levels in females are concerned, they increased from 12 to 15.5 for every thousand girls.
Eating disorders also went up from 4 to 6.6 for every 1,000 girls. Maccabi Healthcare Services carried out the research and published it online. They used anonymous data from the study participants in the relevant age brackets and the study has not been peer-reviewed as yet. The study chose not to rely on a comparatively small number of self-assessments or surveys in order to get some insight into mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, it opted to make use of the big data approach by taking advantage of objective data about prescriptions and diagnoses.
Yonatan Blu, an analyst at Maccabi, led the research and the authors of the study wrote that changes in mental health can occur from anything including extended lockdowns, unhealthy daily routines, lack of physical activity, closure of schools leading to social isolation and fear of unknown illnesses. Experts have policymakers had already warned about the detrimental impact of the pandemic on the health of young people, as they have had to deal with changes in social structures, extended school closures, along with a deadly plague changing the world in what seemed like a blink of an eye.
Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Carmit Katz said that while trying to mitigate the virus, policymakers had not taken steps for preventing mental health issues and many of the structures that offer support to children and families had been shut down for long periods. He said that two years later, the lack of these policies shows how children have been affected. He added that if these effects on teenagers because of the pandemic were not handled properly, they could be felt for years to come. The Maccabi authors have also stated that some of the changes in mental health could be because parents have become more attentive towards their children during lockdowns.