Report: Mississippi ranks near bottom for child well-being. Anxiety, depression soar among Mississippi youth.

Published 8:00 am Monday, August 8, 2022

Mississippi slightly improved but still ranks near the bottom of the pack among states in child well-being, according to the 33rd edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book. 

The annual report, which was released on Aug. 8, presents national and state data across four domains — economic well-being, family and community, education and health — and ranks states in overall child well-being. The report includes pre-pandemic figures as well as more recent statistics, and shares the latest information of its kind available.

In the 2022 report, Mississippi improved two spots in comparison to 2021 when the state ranks at the bottom of all 50 states. Mississippi’s overall ranking is 48th — the state ranks 39th in education, 49th in economic well-being, and 50th in each of the other domains.

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The report found that 9.8% of Mississippi’s children had anxiety or depression or both in 2020, a slight decrease from 2016 (10.9%).

According to the report, the coronavirus pandemic has brought children trauma and tremendous loss over the past two and a half years. As of July 2022, the health crisis had killed more than 1 million people in America, including more than 1,600 children. During this same period, more than 200,000 kids had lost a parent or primary caregiver to the virus.

These conditions have helped fuel what the U.S. surgeon general has called a “mental health pandemic” for youth. According to the Data Book, the incidence of anxiety and depression among kids has spiked. Comparing pre-pandemic to the first year of the COVID-19 crisis: The share of children struggling to make it through the day rose nearly 26% — from 9.4% (5.8 million kids) in 2016 to 11.8% (7.3 million kids) in 2020.

The pandemic within a pandemic has also laid bare persistent disparities, the report says. Across the United States, 9% of all high schoolers attempted suicide in the years before the most recent federal survey. This rate rises to 12% for Black students, 13% for students of two or more races and 26% for American Indian or Native Alaskan high schoolers. Among LGBTQ youth, the statistics are similarly lopsided, with 23% of gay, lesbian or bisexual high schoolers reporting to have attempted suicide compared to just 6% of their heterosexual peers.