Ask a teenager what problems they see their peers suffering from and you may be surprised by how attentive and sensitive they are. 70% of U.S. teens ages 13-17, surveyed last year by the Pew Research Center, said anxiety and depression were major problems; only 4% said these two mental health conditions are not a problem among their peers. Benjamin Fearnow found research lending credence to teenagers’ worries:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in five American kids ages 3 through 17—or about 15 million people—have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in any given year. The CDC reports that half of all Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life, although many refuse to seek help. Depression is the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. among people between 18 and 44 years old.
When asked whether “each of the following is a major/minor/not a problem among people their age in the community where they live,” only 10% of surveyed teens said bullying was NOT a problem; 55% categorized it as a major problem and 35% as a minor one. Other issues that teens perceive as major or minor problems among their peers include poverty (87%), drug addition (86%), drinking alcohol (84%), teen pregnancy (78%), and gangs (71%).
Concerns about school performance (88% of teens feel “a lot” or “some” pressure), trying to fit in socially (67%), and physical appearances (66%) also stress teenagers out. Other interesting items from this telephone survey of 920 teens last fall indicate where their priorities lie:
— 59% of all teens surveyed plan to attend a 4-year college (68% girls vs. 51% boys). Teens from wealthier households and those whose parents achieved higher levels of education are more likely to see college in their future.
— 26% of teens say they get excited by something they study in school (33% girls vs. 21% boys).
— 95% of teens say “it would be extremely or very important to them, personally, as an adult,” to have a job or career they enjoy.
— 81% of teens say “it would be extremely or very important to them, personally, as an adult,” to help other people who are in need.
— Having a lot of money when they are adults is extremely or very important to 51% of teens (41% girls vs. 61% boys).
— Only 11% want to become famous.
— Getting married is extremely or very important to 47% of teens (45% girls vs. 50% boys).
— Having children is extremely or very important to 39% of teenagers, split almost equally between girls and boys.
Teenagers today clearly worry about themselves and each other. They worry about their safety and they worry about the prospects of their future. It is doubtful that most teenagers would find consolation in the fact that their parents are worried too.