Surprisingly, teens’ mental health did not collectively suffer during the pandemic when the two surveys are compared. The percentage of teens who were depressed or lonely was actually lower in 2020 than in 2018, and the percentage who were unhappy or dissatisfied with life was only slightly higher.

This relatively positive picture for mental health occurred despite many of the challenges faced by the teens in our survey. Nearly one out of three teens (29 percent) knew someone diagnosed with COVID-19. More than one out of four (27 percent) said a parent had lost a job, and exactly one out of four was worried about their families having enough food to eat. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) were worried about catching the virus, and two-thirds worried about not being able to see their friends.

So why was teen mental health stable, or even better, during the pandemic?

First, teens have been sleeping more during the pandemic, and teens who are sleep deprived are significantly more likely to suffer from depression.