Family Economics and Mental Health Among High-School Students During COVID-19

Am J Prev Med. 2023 Mar;64(3):414-422. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2022.09.015. Epub 2022 Oct 24.


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented socioeconomic and health impacts in the U.S. This study examined racial/ethnic and school poverty status differences in the relationship between parent job loss, experiences with hunger, and indicators of mental health problems among public high-school students nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: The study analyzed data from the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey, conducted in January-June 2021. The Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey was a 1-time, cross-sectional, online survey that used a stratified, 3-stage cluster sample to obtain a nationally representative sample of high-school students in the U.S. This study was limited to public-school students (n=7,379).

Results: Among public high-school students nationwide, 36.9% experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, and during the past year, 43.9% experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, 19.8% seriously considered attempting suicide, and 9.1% attempted suicide. Parent job loss and having gone hungry were associated with indicators of mental health problems overall and across racial/ethnic groups and school poverty status levels.

Conclusions: Students who experience parent job loss and hunger are likely to also experience poor mental health and may be at higher risk for suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Pandemics
  • Students / psychology