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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Teens Point to Anxiety and Depression as Major Issues

A Pew research poll released Wednesday confirms what decades of angsty song lyrics have been telling us: Most teenagers worry about depression and anxiety, feeling the pressure to look good and perform well in school.

(CN) – A Pew research poll released Wednesday confirms what decades of angsty song lyrics have been telling us: Most teenagers worry about depression and anxiety, feeling the pressure to look good and perform well in school.

Lyrics recorded by Motion City Soundtrack 15 years ago capture that feeling even now: "I am wrecked. I am overblown. I am also fed up with the common cold, when I just want to feel alive for the first time in my life, I just want to feel attractive today."

Pew researchers polled 920 Americans ages 13 to 17 between September and November 2018, conducting interviews in English and Spanish.

Bullying, drug addiction, poverty, teen pregnancy and gangs weighed heavy on the minds of anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of teens who responded. But 70 percent of teens name anxiety and depression as the greatest problem in their life, and just 4 percent say mental health isn’t an issue.

"Concern about mental health cuts across gender, racial and socioeconomic lines, with roughly equal shares of teens across demographic groups saying it is a significant issue in their community," the researchers said in a statement.

Among pressures identified, researchers Juliana Horowitz and Nikki Graf teased out some of the academic pressures faced by teens. Two-thirds of teens feel pressure to do well in school with nearly an equal number planning to attend a four-year college.

“These teens are more likely than those who have other plans to say they face a lot of pressure to get good grades,” the researchers said.

Fifteen percent of teens say they plan to attend a two-year college or vocational school. Just 5 perfect of teens plan to work full-time after high school and only 3 percent say they’re thinking about joining the military.

Of those who plan to go to college, 70 percent worry whether they will be admitted into their top choice. Almost the same number – 65 percent – worry about how to pay for it, more so for teens from low-income families.

Teens from households that make more than $75,000 are more likely to plan to attend college and less likely to feel pressured to help their family financially. Of teens from families who earn less than $35,000 annually, 42 percent plan to attend college and contribute to their family income.

Looking further into the future, 95 percent of teens want to a job they enjoy. Only half of teens prioritize having a lot of money – 61 percent of boys compared to 41 percent of girls – and 11 percent dream of becoming famous.

Despite the pressure for advanced education, only a quarter of teens report being "excited by something they study in school" on a daily basis.

Analyzing Bureau of Labor statistics, Pew senior researcher Gretchen Livingston found teens today are "devoting more time to sleep and homework, and less time to paid work and socializing” than a decade ago. “But what has not changed are the differences between teen boys and girls in time spent on leisure, grooming, homework, housework and errands,” she said.

Overall, teenage boys partition one hour more leisure time – often spent looking at screens – compared to girls who devote slightly more time to grooming (23 minutes), doing homework (21 minutes), doing housework (14 minutes) and running errands (10 minutes).

On the average day, today’s teens spend 16 minutes more on homework than a decade ago and 16 minutes less socializing. Today’s teen works 23 minutes less per day and sleeps 22 minutes longer, averaging more than 9 ½ hours of beauty rest each night.

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