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Reviews |  Teenagers report increasing anxiety.  Maybe that’s rational.


First of all, let’s be clear that the pandemic has destroyed the mental health of many people, regardless of age, and there are so many other things going on in society right now, including inflation , armed violence and the war in Ukraine, which deeply upset people. The American Psychological Association has conducted its “Stress in America” ​​survey since 2007 and found this year that “money-related stress registered at the highest level since 2015.”

As Olga Khazan from The Atlantic explained in a good article on why people are acting so weird right now, everyone is extremely overwhelmed and this causes many adults to behave uncivilly on planes, at school board meetings and even at the Oscars. Watching adults crumble probably doesn’t help teenagers cope with life, nor do many other recent stressors. As Erin Anhalt, mother of a 15-year-old girl in Maryland, told me on Twitter, her daughter says “she’s seen half the adults have a mask-wearing crisis during a pandemic, they’re watching the climate change are unfolding rapidly, feel like no chance of having an education without crippling debt, etc… of course they are anxious.

Life has always been hard, and being a teenager has always been hard. Being a teenager with abusive or food-insecure parents has always been especially difficult.

So I wonder if another reason for the rise in teens saying they’re depressed and anxious is that they have the language for it now, and there’s so much less stigma in admitting those feelings that there were even when I was a child – something psychologists and psychiatrists I interviewed for previous newsletters have pointed out. This would be difficult to demonstrate with a study, since we don’t have a time machine to interview teenagers in 1992 to ask about their knowledge, attitudes and exposure to mental health issues.

In any case, we must pay particular attention to the fact that adolescents report such high levels of stress. Many of them are still reeling from the worst times of the pandemic and the feelings of isolation and disconnection they experienced. And I think we should all be aware of how our kids interact with social media and how they feel. In The Times, Virginia Hughes reported on a new study on social media use:

Analyzing survey responses from over 84,000 people of all ages in Britain, the researchers identified two distinct periods of adolescence when heavy use of social media led to lower rates of “ satisfaction with life’: first around puberty – from 11 to 13 years old for girls, and 14 to 15 years old for boys – then again for both sexes around 19 years old.

It’s this kind of nuanced and specific information that I find most useful in determining the limits of my two daughters’ use of social media. I was considering allowing my eldest daughter to get a smartphone early in college, but information like this makes me reconsider. Maybe we’ll opt for a “dumb phone” with no internet capabilities, or a smartwatch with limited functionality instead, if we think it needs to get some kind of technology to keep in touch.

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