Student Well-Being

Teens Are Growing Depressed and Disconnected From School, Student Survey Finds

By Arianna Prothero — June 12, 2020 2 min read
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Feelings of depression, unhappiness, and disconnection are rising among America’s youth as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

While a majority of students have been provided with some social-emotional support from their schools, still 40 percent say they have not been offered any social or emotional support by an adult from their school.

That’s according to a survey of 3,300 teenagers conducted by the America’s Promise Alliance to gauge teens’ social, emotional, and academic experiences since schools shut down en masse in response to the spreading coronavirus. All students participating in the survey had been out of school—or at least taking in-person classes—for four weeks or more.

The survey’s findings, says America’s Promise, show that students need far more social and emotional support as they try to navigate mass disconnection from school and friends and a once-in-a-century pandemic.

The teens surveyed—ranging from 13- to 19-years-old—say they are much more concerned than they normally are about not only their education and health, but also the health and financial stability of their families.

Fifty-two percent of teens said they are more worried than usual about their health and their family’s health, 40 percent indicated they were more concerned about their family’s financial standing, and 39 percent said they are more worried about their education, including their grades and chances of getting into college.

Thirty percent of teens said they are more worried than usual about basic needs including food, medicine, and safety.

These concerns are straining students’ mental health. Over a quarter of teens said that they are losing more sleep, feeling more unhappy or depressed, feeling under constant strain, or losing confidence in themselves, all of which are important indicators of emotional and cognitive health.

Those slides have been felt more acutely by Asian and Latino youth. Forty-four percent of Asians and 40 percent of Latinos reported a decline in their mental health, compared to 31 and 30 percent of their black and white peers, respectively.

Teens whose parents are immigrants were more likely to report more mental health issues than students whose parents were born in the United States—42 percent compared to 31 percent.

Overall, a majority of students—60 percent—say that an adult from their school has pointed them to tools and resources to help support their social and emotional wellbeing. The vast majority of those students say these resources have been at least a little helpful.

Nearly one-quarter of students report feeling disconnected from their school communities, adults, and classmates.

While nearly all students said they are participating in some form of online learning, 78 percent said they are spending four hours or less each day on class or work assignments.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.