As many parents and teens already know from their own experience, anxiety and depression are on the rise among America’s youth. And most American teenagers, whether they personally suffer from these conditions or not, see depression and anxiety as major problems among their peers, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.
The survey of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 found that seven in ten teens today see anxiety and depression as major problems. Concern about mental health cuts across gender, racial and socio-economic lines, with roughly equal percentages of teens across demographic groups saying it is a significant issue in their community.
The Pew survey also touched on a wide range of other possible teen concerns, including:
- Bullying, drug addiction, and alcohol. More than four in ten say these are major problems affecting people their age in the area where they live, according to the survey.
- Academics. When it comes to the pressures teens face, academics tops the list: 61% of teens say they feel a lot of pressure to get good grades.
- Social acceptance. By comparison, about three-in-ten say they feel a lot of pressure to look good (29%) and to fit in socially (28%).
- Performance pressure. Roughly one-in-five teens feel pressured to be involved in extracurricular activities and to be good at sports (21% each).
- Peer pressure. While about half of teens see drug addiction and alcohol consumption as major problems among people their age, fewer than one-in-ten say they personally feel a lot of pressure to use drugs (4%) or to drink alcohol (6%) or to be sexually active (8%).
Post-graduation goals may explain the pressure that teens feel to do well in school. 59% say they plan to attend a four-year college after they finish high school, and these teens are more likely than those who have other plans to say they face a lot of pressure to get good grades.
Boys’ and girls’ goals and experiences differ in some key ways.
Girls are more likely than boys to say they plan to attend a four-year college (68% vs. 51%, respectively), and they’re also more likely to say they worry a lot about getting into the school of their choice (37% vs. 26%).
While boys and girls face many of the same pressures—for example, they’re about equally likely to say they feel pressure to get good grades – their daily experiences differ in other ways. Girls are more likely than boys to say they face a lot of pressure to look good: About a third of girls (35%) say this is the case, compared with 23% of boys. And more girls than boys say they often feel tense or nervous about their day (36% vs. 23%, respectively, say they feel this way every day or almost every day). At the same time, girls are more likely to say they regularly get excited about something they study at school: 33% of girls say this happens every day or almost every day, versus 21% of boys.
And, finally, some good news: Of all teens, 65% feel they spend just the right amount of time with their parents, and most—59%—get a hug or kiss from their parents every day.