A student at Lakewood Elementary School in Cecilia, Ky., uses her laptop to participate in an emotional check-in at the start of the school day, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in this AP file photo. Nearly 36 percent of Maine students said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more, an increase from 32 percent in 2019. Credit: Timothy D. Easley / AP

By Rose Lundy of The Maine Monitor

Nearly 43 percent of Maine high school students reported their mental health was not good “most of the time” or “always” during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the results of a 2021 survey released Wednesday.

Female high school students reported worse mental health than male students. Nearly 57 percent of female students said their mental health was not good  “most of the time” or “always,” compared to nearly 29 percent of male students. The question stated that “poor mental health includes stress, anxiety, and depression.”

Many of the survey results were weighted to account for missing data.

Nearly 36 percent of students said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more — an increase from 32 percent in 2019, the last year the survey was conducted.

About 19 percent of students seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months — an increase from 16 percent in 2019. More than 40 percent of gay, lesbian or bisexual students said they had considered suicide.

The results of the   2021 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey were posted Wednesday afternoon by the state Department of Education and the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The biennial survey of students in grades 5 through 12 was conducted among students last fall. It monitors health behavior and attitudes regarding alcohol, tobacco, nutrition, substance use, mental health and physical activity.

The survey also found that about 66 percent of high school students agreed or strongly agreed that schoolwork was more difficult during the pandemic.

Smoking rates declined from 7 percent of students in 2019 saying they smoked at least one cigarette a day to 5.5 percent of students last year.

Vaping rates dropped sharply from 45 percent to nearly 32 percent.

The percentage of students who had tried alcohol dropped from 51 percent to 43 percent last year. And the frequency declined: 19 percent of students had one drink in the past 30 days, compared with nearly 23 percent in 2019.

Marijuana use also declined. The percentage of students who said they had used marijuana at least one time declined from 36 percent to 30.5 percent.

Students who have had sexual intercourse declined from 38.4 percent to 30.6 percent.

Students also were more physically active last year. The percentage of students who were active for at least an hour five days a week increased from 44 percent to 50 percent.

This story was originally published by   The Maine Monitor. The Maine Monitor is a local journalism product published by The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, a nonpartisan and nonprofit civic news organization.

Rose Lundy is the public health reporter for The Maine Monitor, and is a 2020 Report for America corps member.