NIMH » Youth Emergency Department Visits for Mental Health Increased During Pandemic

Analysis Spotlight

Hospital visits for psychological well being care elevated amongst kids and youths within the second 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, in accordance with a research supported by the Nationwide Institute of Psychological Well being. Analyses of insurance coverage claims knowledge for greater than 4.1 million kids confirmed an particularly notable enhance in acute psychological well being care visits—together with emergency division visits—amongst teen women.

The research was led by Lindsay Overhage , an M.D.-Ph.D. scholar at Harvard Medical Faculty, and Haiden Huskamp, Ph.D. , the Henry J. Kaiser Professor of Well being Coverage at Harvard Medical Faculty. Overhage, Huskamp, and colleagues examined nationwide, deidentified business medical health insurance claims for youth aged 5 to 17 years over the next intervals:

  • Baseline 12 months: March 2019 to February 2020
  • First 12 months of the pandemic: March 2020 to February 2021
  • Second 12 months of the pandemic: March 2021 to February 2022

The researchers outlined psychological health-related emergency division visits as visits by which a psychological well being situation was recorded as the first analysis for the go to. They then sorted the diagnoses into classes, which included despair; suicidal ideation, suicide try, or self-injury; anxiousness dysfunction; and consuming dysfunction. Visits with a main analysis of substance use dysfunction weren’t included.

From these knowledge, the researchers recognized 88,665 psychological health-related emergency division visits. Relative to the pre-pandemic baseline 12 months, the proportion of youth with no less than one psychological well being go to decreased by 17.3% within the first 12 months of the pandemic. In distinction, the proportion of youth with a psychological well being go to elevated by 6.7% within the second pandemic 12 months relative to the baseline 12 months. The proportion of youth with a number of visits in the identical 12 months remained related over time.

Additional analyses revealed notable variations in accordance with age and intercourse. Relative to baseline, psychological health-related emergency visits within the second 12 months of the pandemic elevated by 22.1% amongst teen women (aged 13 to 17), whereas these visits decreased by 15.0% amongst boys aged 5 to 12 and 9.0% amongst teen boys (aged 13 to 17).

The information additionally confirmed that women’ visits elevated significantly for particular diagnostic classes. For instance, amongst women, there was a 43.6% enhance in visits for suicidal ideation, suicide try, or self-injury and a 120.4% enhance in visits for consuming issues within the second 12 months of the pandemic. Amongst boys, psychological health-related visits decreased or stayed the identical throughout diagnostic classes in each pandemic years. The researchers observe that these findings are according to different research indicating that the pandemic has taken a higher toll on women’ psychological well being.

Inpatient psychiatry admissions additionally elevated through the pandemic. After a psychological health-related emergency division go to, youth have been extra more likely to be admitted for inpatient psychiatric care and stayed in inpatient psychiatric care longer in each pandemic years in comparison with the baseline 12 months. 

Importantly, throughout each years of the pandemic, youth have been extra more likely to spend two or extra nights in a medical unit ready to be admitted to a psychiatric unit, a follow the researchers name “extended boarding.” Relative to the baseline 12 months, extended boarding elevated by 27.1% within the first 12 months of the pandemic and 76.4% within the second 12 months of the pandemic. The rise within the second 12 months of the pandemic was particularly excessive (87.2%) amongst teenagers aged 13 to 17. 

In keeping with the researchers, the rise in extended boarding may very well be resulting from two elements: elevated demand and lowered capability. In different phrases, extra kids wanted pressing psychological well being care, however there have been additionally fewer inpatient psychiatric beds and fewer certified employees to fulfill these wants. The researchers observe that this underscores the significance of increasing the capability of psychiatric companies for youth.

Though the research targeted solely on youth with business insurance coverage, the findings make clear the broad want for applicable, responsive psychological well being care for kids and youths. The researchers recommend that educating and supporting main care suppliers in delivering psychological well being care may assist tackle youth psychological well being issues earlier than they require extra acute, hospital-based care. On the similar time, they observe that supporting present psychological well being care suppliers and growing the pipeline of certified employees are essential steps in addressing the supplier scarcity. 


Overhage, L., Hailu, R., Busch, A. B., Mehotra, A., Michelson, Okay. A., & Huskamp, H. A. (2023). Developments in acute care use for psychological well being situations amongst youth through the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Psychiatry. 


MH112829 , MH019733 , HS026503 , AG051108 

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