Social connectedness, sleep, and physical activity associated with better mental health among youth during the COVID-19 pandemic

Longitudinal survey data of more than 3,000 adolescents ages 11-14 recorded before and during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 found that supportive relationships with family and friends and healthy behaviors, like engaging in physical activity and better sleep, appeared to shield against the harmful effects of the pandemic on adolescents’ mental health.

The research, published today in the Journal of Adolescent Health, was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other entities at the National Institutes of Health. The research is based on data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study(link is external), the largest long-term study of brain development and child health ever conducted in the United States.

Researchers also explored predictors of perceived stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, and found that girls were more likely than boys to experience psychological distress during the pandemic. Psychosocial factors, including poorer quality and functioning of family relationships, more screen time, and witnessing discrimination in relation to the pandemic, also predicted youth distress.

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