A young boy in green glasses and a surgical mask looks out a window

Researchers study psychological, social impact of COVID-19 on adolescents

With a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, University of Texas Medical Branch researchers will study the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents’ mental, behavioral and social health.

Researchers from UTMB’s Center for Violence Prevention and School of Nursing will also look at the role of family and income stability; parent-child relationships; access to education and technology; learning in-person, online or hybrid; and school disruptions on the COVID-19 impacts for youth.

“Unfortunately, the last wave of COVID will inevitably be the mental health toll of the last few years,” said Dr. Jeff Temple, the principal investigator of this new study. “Our teens were exposed to months of stress – all while being physically separated from their friends. They missed developmental milestones, didn’t date, didn’t hang out with friends, didn’t learn from making stupid mistakes. That was all put on hold. This study will give us an unprecedented look at the long-term impact of these experiences.”

Because the researchers—including Drs.  Elizabeth Baumler and Leila Wood—are using the same sample where they tested the effectiveness of a violence prevention program, they can also determine if the intervention helped lessen the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we can show that this school-based intervention works–not only to prevent violence but to also stop some of the bad effects of the pandemic–then we can encourage schools throughout the country to adopt similar programs that will help youth thrive even in the face of crises like natural disasters and future pandemics,” Temple said.

This is the fourth major grant that School of Nursing faculty has received in the past two months, Temple said.