Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston are looking into the effects of the pandemic on young people's mental health.
Jeff Temple heads up the UTMB Center For Violence Prevention. He said a mental health crisis among young people already existed before the pandemic.
"It’s stormy and stressful to be a teen," he said. "And I think even more so now than ever before."
LISTEN: Dr. Temple discusses his research on Houston Matters
Students are growing up in a world with a climate crisis, school shootings, geopolitical strife, toxic social media, "and these kids aren’t stupid, they see that," Temple said.
"A perfect storm got even worse with the pandemic," he added. "I think we’re going to see this generation is going to have negative effects from all of this stuff, doubled down with a pandemic for years to come."
The grant supports an ongoing project that began before the pandemic with about 2,500 Houston-area seventh graders. The team initially looked into how to prevent dating violence. Then the pandemic hit, and they expanded the scope to include COVID-related questions.
"What makes this study unique is that we have this pre-pandemic behavior, so we can control for that in the future and say, ‘It was actually the pandemic that seemed to have a negative effect,'" he explained.
By the time the study is done, the young people will be in their 20s, giving researchers almost a decade of data-driven insight into how one of the most tumultuous times in modern history affected young people.