Jul 12, 2013 9:00 AM by By Steven Reinberg
FRIDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. teens who were asked about their health rated it worse during the recession in 2009 and 2010 than in the period from 2001 through 2004, a new study finds.
Whether these changes were due to family stress, lack of access to health care, poor diet or other causes aren't known, the researchers said.
"Changes in family economic circumstances during the recent recession may have affected teenagers' perceptions of their overall health and their mental health," said lead researcher Wanjun Cui, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study showed that 63 percent of teens said their overall health was "very good" or "excellent" in 2001 and 2002 compared with only 52 percent in 2009 and 2010.
In addition, the percentage of teenagers who said their mental health was not good (reporting 14 to 30 mentally unhealthy days in a year) almost doubled from 2001-04 to the recession years of 2009-10, researchers found.
These declines in teen's perception of their health occurred mainly among those from low- and middle-income families, said Cui, an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education fellow at the CDC.
"As the U.S. economy improves, studying whether these perceptions also improve would be worthwhile," she said.
This study suggests the need to recognize such changes earlier during recessions and to develop policies and programs to help adolescents -- especially those from low- and middle-income families -- cope with these changes to maintain and improve their health-related quality of life, Cui said.
"These declines, however, did not change because of differences in sex, age, racial composition, Hispanic ethnicity or the percentages that smoked cigarettes or were physically inactive," she said.
For the study, the CDC researchers used data on more than 7,000 teens aged 12 to 17 collected in the 2001 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The report was published in the July edition of the CDC's journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
Dr. Jefry Biehler, a pediatrician at Miami Children's Hospital in Florida, said the study findings were "not unexpected. It's a concerning trend."
By way of explaining the findings, Biehler said a recession stresses families and may limit access to health care.
"As parents and physicians, we need to be mindful of the significant risks of adolescence -- an age group that often falls in the gaps of pediatrics and adult medicine," Biehler said.
"We have to pay close attention to their health care needs and that the economy and other factors may play an important role in their overall health and perception of health," he said. "Their needs are different and important."
For a variety of topics on teen health, visit the Nemours Foundation.