While doing research for yesterday’s PediaBlog post about the effects of early school start times on teenagers’ academic performance and health, I came across the infographic below from the youth development organization National 4-H Council. From their “Teens Take on Health… a first-of-its-kind, teen-led research effort that is focused on talking with young people instead of talking at them,” this is what 4-H gleaned from their conversations:
- America’s youth see health as holistic—mind, body and soul.
- Obesity is top of mind for American youth.
- Teens are paying attention to health care access issues.
- They aren’t getting enough sleep, need help with stress and are concerned about mental health needs in their communities.
Sleep-deprivation is just one factor which leads to stress in teenagers. The list of other well-documented factors include the cognitive, organizational, and performance demands of school, family dynamics in the home, peer relationships, uncertainty about the future, chronic illness, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Poverty is a big contributor for too many kids, and environmental stressors (air pollution and excessive/loud noise, for example) are often overlooked by many medical providers. All these factors are bad enough in isolation. Add a few together, or throw in sleep-deprivation, and things can get pretty stressed out pretty fast.
Our kids are growing up in a tough world. For starters, there are more people, and with more people comes more noise and pollution. There’s more wealth, sure, but there is even more poverty. Each generation is getting smarter, but that means there’s more to learn in school (and out). There’s more and more media that vies for the attention of our youth (social media, Internet, video games, TV, movies, music, and more) — much more than in the past — yet there’s still only 24 hours in a day the last that I looked. It’s amazing how much teenagers multitask and how many do so effectively; you have to in the “Information Age.”
Our kids see what’s going on in the world. Even if they don’t watch the evening news, they know what’s happening. Preteens are natural optimists; teenagers, not so much. They are stressed out.
The solutions that teens propose at the bottom of the graphic are in line with the advice I so often give to teenagers and their parents: Keep it simple.
A little bit of stress is a good thing. It can focus the mind, separate the important from the trivial, motivate one to do better. Too much stress, or stress poorly managed, is debilitating. It makes people sick. It’s an unwanted and unneeded imposition on others.
Stress is something we could all use a little less of. Being kind, more forgiving, less judgmental is helpful. So is working to get, and stay, physically, nutritionally, and mentally fit.
Getting some extra sleep each night wouldn’t hurt, either!