FAIR Health finds a 100% spike in mental health claims for teenagers during the pandemic

FAIR Health’s latest white paper finds that mental health claims for teenagers increased by close to 100% as a percentage of all medical claims in March and April of 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.

The report, which is the latest in a series of COVID-related FAIR Health analyses, finds that percentages of claims related to intentional self-harm, overdoses and substance use disorders, and mental health diagnoses have all significantly increased during the pandemic.

FAIR Health analyzed private health claims from its database of over 32 billion claim records to study the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals 13-18 years and 19-22 years.


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In March and April 2020, total medical claims dropped by about half for those 13-18 years, likely due to restrictions on nonemergency medical care and hesitancy to seek care during the spring surge. However, the percentage of medical claim lines that were for mental health saw a 97% increase in March and a 103.5% increase in April. The report states:

“It is striking, therefore, that one component of medical care, mental healthcare, increased significantly even while overall medical care was falling. It suggests the increase in mental health issues brought on by the pandemic in the 13-18 age group.”

A similar trend was seen through November 2020, those to a lesser extent.


Image: FAIR Health


The report finds that as a percentage of all medical claims, claim lines for intentional self-harm nearly doubled between April 2019 and April 2020. From August 2019 to August 2020 in the Northeast, there was a 333.93% increase in intentional self-harm claim lines.

In the 13-18 age group, claim lines for overdoses jumped 119.31% in April 2020 compared to the year before. The percentage of claim lines for substance use disorders increased over 60% in March and April of 2020, but eventually fell below 2019 levels beginning in September.

“For the age group 13-18, in April 2020, claim lines for generalized anxiety disorder increased 93.6 percent as a percentage of all medical claim lines over April 2019, while major depressive disorder claim lines increased 83.9 percent and adjustment disorder claim lines 89.7 percent.”

The white paper reasons that young individuals are especially vulnerable to the mental health impacts of the pandemic. School closures and social isolation have likely contributed to increased stress and loneliness.

FAIR Health’s report also includes a map showing state variation in mental health claim lines for those aged 6-22. In 2020, the top fives states for mental health claims as a percent of overall medical claims were Vermont, Minnesota, Oregon, Montana, and Massachusetts. The bottom five states were Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Nevada, and Texas.

Image: FAIR Health