Doctors spent more time treating mental health for children and teens during first few weeks of lockdown, research says

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The global lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic has affected the mental health of many, especially children and teenagers, new research has found.

According to data from athenahealth, children and teenagers that were diagnosed with ADHD for the first time rose 66 percent during March and April, while 41 percent of patient visits among children and teenagers also involved discussion of depression.
 
“COVID-19 has caused Americans unprecedented levels of stress, and it’s evident that our new reality is causing people of all ages and genders to reach out to their physicians for guidance and support,” said Jessica Sweeney-Platt, Executive Director, Research and Insights for athenahealth, in a statement. “The trends we’re seeing from our data are even more striking when we consider that fewer patients are seeing their doctors in person right now."

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Sweeney-Platt continued: "We hope that by shining a light on this data, we can encourage patients to leverage tools like telehealth to stay in close communication with their providers and get the help they need, especially during this emotionally difficult time.”

Digging further into the data, athenahealth noted that 27 percent of primary care visits from kids and teens involved a discussion about depression during the week of March 9, but that number jumped to 41 percent during the week of April 13.

"During the same time period, antidepressant prescription renewals for this group followed a similar trend, and there was a more gradual increase in share of visits involving first-time antidepressant prescriptions among teenagers," the health and tech company noted.

The same trend occurred with ADHD diagnoses, rising by two-thirds from the week of March 9 to the week of March 30, as the lockdown and pandemic worsened. The health tech company, which was acquired by private equity firm Veritas Capital in 2019, noted this may be attributed to parents spending more time with their children and noticing more symptoms related to the disorder, as well as the increase in telehealth appointments.

Sweeney-Platt added the company is "starting to see" that visits with mental health diagnoses are "returning to pre-COVID-19 levels," but added they are still above that level.

"And not surprisingly, prescription rates seem to be returning to early-March levels a little faster but are still somewhat elevated," Sweeney-Platt said in an email to Fox News.

In early April, the Dept. of Health and Human Services made the extraordinary announcement to allow video chat apps such as Apple's FaceTime and Zoom for medical consultations.

"During the COVID-19 national emergency, which also constitutes a nationwide public health emergency, covered health care providers subject to the HIPAA Rules may seek to communicate with patients, and provide telehealth services, through remote communications technologies," the HHS wrote in an announcement on its website at the time.

Also included on the list are Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts and Microsoft's Skype.

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Though the data linking the lockdown and the pandemic to an increase in depression and ADHD in children and teens is concerning, the mental well-being of adults is also being negatively impacted.

There was a 44-percent increase in first-time anxiety diagnoses in women during March, athenahealth noted, particularly in women between the ages of 30 and 64. There was also a 25 percent increase observed in men of the same age group, the company added.

Currently, there is no known scientific cure for the disease known as COVID-19, however, a number of drugs are being tested to see if they can treat it.

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As of Thursday morning, more than 5 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 1.55 million of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.

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