Socioeconomic disparities in adolescent anxiety and depression in Finland have not increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

Riittakerttu Kaltiala, Terhi Aalt-Setälä, Olli Kiviruusu

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Aims: The purpose of this research was to assess whether socioeconomic disparities in adolescent depression and anxiety in Finland increased among middle adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Repeated cross-sectional surveys (the School Health Promotion Study) from spring 2019 and spring 2021 were compared. The respondents were 87,283 eighth and ninth graders (14–16-year-olds) in 2019 and 91,560 in 2021, corresponding respectively to 73% and 75% of the age groups. Depression was measured by Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2), and anxiety with GAD-7, and adverse socioeconomic background using low parental education, not living with both parents, and family’s poor financial situation. Associations of socioeconomic adversities with depression and generalised anxiety, and the effect of COVID-19 (2021 vs 2019), were analysed using logistic regression. Results: Depression and anxiety were more common in both sexes the more sociodemographic adversities there were in the adolescent’s background. However, increases in the prevalence of anxiety and depression from pre- to in-pandemic time did not differ with accumulating sociodemographic adversities. Conclusions: Depression and anxiety increased in prevalence among Finnish adolescents during the pandemic. Sociodemographic disparities in depression and anxiety show no increase. Emotional symptoms are nevertheless more common in adolescents from lower socioeconomic status families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)656-663
Issue number5
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • adolescence
  • anxiety
  • COVID-19
  • depression
  • socioeconomic adversity

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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