Increased prevalence and severity of psychiatric illness in hospitalized youth during COVID-19

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2022 Jul;27(3):804-812. doi: 10.1177/13591045221076889. Epub 2022 Mar 2.


Background and objectives: Previous studies have demonstrated an increase in mental health emergencies among youth seen in ambulatory and emergency room settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study investigates rates of mental health-related consultation and markers of illness severity since the start of the pandemic.

Methods: We evaluated all pediatric patients admitted to a single children's hospital from March 2019 to March 2021 who received psychiatry and/or psychology consults. We report the absolute number of these patients, as well as the proportion of all study site admissions who received such consults. Severity of psychiatric illness was described in terms of LOS, disposition, and use of restraints and psychotropic medications.

Results: The number and proportion of pediatric patients receiving psychiatry and/or psychology consults rose during the pandemic. Participants also became proportionally more female and older. The study population had higher odds of requiring restraints and antipsychotics during the pandemic.

Conclusions: More pediatric inpatients at the study site have required psychiatric care during the pandemic. The severity of mental illness in this population appears to have worsened based on increased utilization of as-needed psychotropic medications and restraints. These findings highlight the changes experienced by patients and providers during the pandemic and merit further study.

Keywords: COVID-19; Hospital pediatrics; adolescent medicine; consultation-liaison psychiatry; coronavirus.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatry*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use


  • Psychotropic Drugs