I have been seeing a lot of pieces in the news recently about how youth today are really anxious. This corresponds with what we at NJFAI have been seeing in our clients. However these news segments got me thinking, “Are our youth really more anxious or is this the media causing a hysteria?” I decided to turn to the research and find out the truth.
What the research says about high school
The Pew Research Center recently conducted a poll among youth. The focus of the poll is on issues youth identify as being the most common among their friends. Researchers found that 70% of youth report anxiety and depression as a major problem.
Between 2009 and 2017 depression rates among teens increased by 60%.
In 2017 13% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 25 experienced a major depressive episode.
What the research says about college
A 2017 survey of college students found that 40% of students struggle to function due to depression. 60% feel overwhelming anxiety. At NJFAI we work with a lot of college students. While these statistics may seem shocking I am confident they are accurate.
Another study found that up to 20% of college students are so stressed they contemplate suicide.
Are our youth today more anxious and depressed than ever before?
The short answer to this question is yes. In the United States we have kept data for decades on depression and anxiety rates among youth. Currently these levels are the highest we have ever seen.
To put it simply our youth and young adults are experiencing serious mental health issues. Additionally they are not receiving the help they need. This is why suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of death among teens and young adults.
Why are teens and young adults so anxious and depressed?
Generally I speak from a therapist and researcher perspective. However I want to just speak plainly about the depression and anxiety we are seeing in our youth. They live in a world of hyperactivity and virtual connectivity.
In an age of mass connection our youth have never been as bad at connecting with others. Most of their relationships lack depth and meaning. It is pretty common for one of my clients to report struggling with loneliness despite the fact that they have over 500 “friends” on Facebook.
What I see is a whole generation of youth walking around feeling bad about themselves. Furthermore this is compounded by the fact that they compare themselves to others they see online. So what we have is youth compare what they feel internally to what others project externally. Our youth usually end up losing that comparison and end up feeling even worse about themselves.
What do I do if I am concerned about a loved one?
As a therapist I think that most youth and young adults should go to therapy. The dramatic rises in depression and anxiety are really concerning to me. If you have concerns about a loved one please contact a mental health professional. Suicide is far too common. I also recommend reading the other articles on this site about our youth population. Finally please do not rely on your child’s social media presence as an indication that your child is doing well. Check in with your children on how they are actually doing. We are here to help and please feel free to contact us.