COVID-19 and the Mental Health of Adolescents in British Columbia

Canadian Public Policy, 2024

Recommended citation: Friesen, Jane, Brian Krauth, and Brett Wilmer (2024). "COVID-19 and the Mental Health of Adolescents in British Columbia." Canadian Public Policy. Forthcoming.

We use linked individual-level data on school enrollment, physician services received, and prescription medications from September 2016 to March 2022 to measure the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated disruptions on the monthly frequency of mental health treatments received by adolescents in British Columbia. The results suggest substantial increases for non-Indigenous English home language girls in treatment for depression/anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders and other mental health conditions. Non-English home language girls also show increases in treatment for depression/anxiety and Indigenous girls show increases in treatment for ADHD. In contrast, boys show no change or even reductions in treatment for most mental health conditions. The exception is conduct disorders, which increase among English home language boys. Treatment for substance use disorders declines among English home language boys, Indigenous boys and Indigenous girls. Effects vary somewhat by socioeconomic status, but we find no evidence that they vary substantially by schooling mode.

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