(CNN) — Teen girls in the United States experienced record high levels of violence, sadness and suicide risk in recent years, amid “significant” declines in youth health and well-being overall, according to data published Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Responses for the CDC’s bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey were collected in the fall of 2021, offering the first look at trends since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The survey found increasing mental health challenges, experiences of violence, and suicidal thoughts and behavior among all teens. More than 40% of high school students said that feelings of sadness or hopelessness prevented them from engaging in their regular activities for at least two weeks of the year.
Girls broadly fared worse than boys, and there is “ongoing and extreme distress” among teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning (LGBQ+).
Most teen girls (57%) felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, double the rate for teen boys (29%). Nearly one in three teen girls seriously considered attempting suicide. Both rates “increased dramatically” over the past decade, according to the CDC.
Most LGBQ+ students (52%) have also recently experienced poor mental health and more than one in five attempted suicide in the past year.
Few measures of adolescent health and well-being showed continued improvement, including declines in risky sexual behavior, substance use and bullying at school. But most other indicators “worsened significantly,” according to the CDC report.
The latest data show increases in the proportion of youth who did not go to school because of safety concerns. There were also increases in teen girls experiencing sexual violence and teen boys experiencing electronic bullying.
Nearly one in five teen girls (18%) had experienced sexual violence in the past year and about one in seven (14%) had ever been forced to have sex.
“Young people are experiencing a level of distress that calls on us to act with urgency and compassion,” said CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health Director Kathleen Ethier. “With the right programs and services in place, schools have the unique ability to help our youth flourish.”
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