Pew: the mental health of their kids has become the biggest concern for parents

Steven Loeb · January 24, 2023 · Short URL:

Over 75% of parents are at least somewhat worried about their child developing anxiety or depression

There's a mental health crisis going on among young people: close to 30% of all hospital admissions in 2020 for non-newborn children were for mental health issues, compared to just 8% for adults. That was, by a wide margin, the highest percentage for any disease category; the next highest was respiratory illnesses, with 11%.

It's no wonder, then, that mental health tops of the list of what parents are most concerned about now when it comes to their children. 

A new survey out from Pew on Tuesday, which surveyed 3,757 parents with children younger than 18, found that over 75% say they are worried that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point. That included 40% who said they were extremely or very worried about this, while only 23% are not worried about the mental health of their children at all. 

Mental health topped bullying, which 35% said they are extremely or very worried about; children being kidnapped or abducted, with 28%; and their children being beaten up or attacked, which 23%. were extremely or very worried about. 

Mothers are more likely than fathers to worry about their children’s mental health, with 46% of mothers, but only 32% of fathers, saying they are extremely or very worried that their children would develop anxiety or depression. Other potential issues saw a similar split, with 41% mothers vs 28% fathers worried about bullying; 35% vs 18% worried about kids being abducted or kidnapped; and 30% vs 19% about them being beaten up or attacked. 

When broken down across racial and ethnic lines, 42% of White and 43% of Hispanic parents say they are extremely or very worried anxiety or depression, while 32% of Black parents and 28% of Asian parents said the same.

Mental health issues were the top worry for parents across all socioeconomic classes, though the lower the income the higher the worry: while 38% of middle-income parents and 32% of people with high incomes say they are extremely or very worried that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point, that number jumped to 48% among people with low incomes. 

The same was true with other parental worries, with the biggest disparity coming with the fear of being shot: 40% of lower income parents cited this as a worry, while only 13% of middle income, and 9% of higher income parents, said the same. Similarly, 26% of lower income parents worry about their kids getting in trouble with the police, while 10% of middle income and just 4% of higher income parents have this fear. 

While mental health issues were exacerbated by the pandemic, and the resulting policies that emanated from it, such as school closures and learning from home, had a disproportionate effect on this demographic, these were problems long before COVID came along.  

More than 1 in 3 high school students reported experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a 40 percent increase in 10 years. In the same time frame, there was a 44% increase in youths who reported making a suicide plan. 

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