FRIDAY, Oct. 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Experience of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) was associated with poorer mental health and increased suicidal behaviors during the pandemic, according to research published in the Oct. 14 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Kayla N. Anderson, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues used data from the 2021 Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey to examine associations between ACEs occurring during the pandemic and mental health or suicidal behaviors among U.S. high school students.

The researchers found that experience of one to two ACEs was associated with poorer mental health and increased suicidal behaviors; with additional ACE exposure, these deleterious outcomes increased. Adolescents who reported four or more ACEs during the pandemic had a prevalence of poor current mental health that was four times as high as those without ACEs during the pandemic, after adjustment for demographic characteristics; the prevalence of past-year suicide attempts was 25 times as high. Higher prevalences of poor mental health and suicidal behaviors was seen for experience of specific ACE types (e.g., emotional abuse).

“Concerns about poor adolescent mental health and suicidal behaviors preceded the COVID-19 pandemic but escalated during the pandemic,” the authors write. “This analysis highlights the ongoing, urgent need to address adversity experienced before and during the pandemic to mitigate its impact on mental and behavioral health.”

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