Are Stress Levels Among Teens and Kids on the Rise?
We may look at kids and teenagers and wish we were their age again, with no worries, good health and a life filled with happiness. Sadly, while things look great from the other side, the lives of kids and teens are actually more stressful than you can imagine. In fact, there are numerous studies and surveys that find that teens report being more stressed than adults and that anxiety levels are on the rise among younger individuals.
What could be contributing to this negative trend? School and the rising standards for admissions into decent colleges seem to play a major role. But social issues, such as fitting in with the crowd, are certainly important players as well. When we look at the way the world has changed in the past couple of decades, it’s easier to understand why stress levels among teens and kids are on the rise.
The Rise of Stress Levels Among Kids and Teens
There are a countless number of sources providing evidence that kids and teens today are more stressed than ever before.
According to a 2013 study, during the school year, teens report having higher stress levels than do adults. What is worrisome is that these high stress levels have a significant impact on physical and mental health. Yet, teens are more likely than adults to report that their stress levels have little impact on their health. The statistics, however, show otherwise.
Young people in America are experiencing higher rates of depression and anxiety than ever before. In fact, 5 to 8 times as many high school and college students today meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or anxiety disorder than did those 50 years ago. Stress also affects sleep and eating patterns, with teens reporting much less sleep than the recommended amount and 39% of teens reporting that they skip a meal at least once a week due to stress.
Of course, suicide is another major problem caused by stress. Sadly, suicide has consistently been the 3rd leading cause of death among children aged 10 to 14 for the past decade in the United States. In 2005, there were 270 reported deaths and in 2013, this number rose to 386.
Possible Causes for an Increase in Stress Pt.1
There are many possible causes for the pattern of stress that has been seen recently. However, there are 3 main factors that seem to play roles.
According to many studies, school is listed as the main cause of stress among kids and teens. In fact, one survey found that 83% of teens said that school is a significant source of stress, with the majority of stress occurring during the school year as opposed to during the summer months.
What stresses them out about school? Schoolwork and social issues seem to be the top reasons. It makes sense with the amount of homework kids get and the rising standards for admissions into a decent college. With a rising number of students that apply to college, teenagers these days are faced with the challenge of not only maintaining a stellar GPA but also being involved in extra-curricular activities to make their application shine among a pile of thousands. Of course, they want to do well in school but they also want to fit in. Just as many youth worry about having friends and being judged as they do about schoolwork.
How does this stress affect teenagers and kids? Headaches, loss of appetite and upset stomach are some of the symptoms of stress reported by teens.
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Possible Causes for an Increase in Stress Pt.2
Teens’ lives are practically put on display on social media and that’s what their peers use to form opinions about them. For many kids and teens, popularity online is just as important as popularity in the real world. This is double the social pressure that older generations without social media faced.
And with the increasing number of social media platforms, there is increasing stress and anxiety. Yes, “social media anxiety” is an actual phrase that was coined during the digital age and while it may not be recognized as a disorder yet, it just might be soon. Kids and teens feel tremendous pressure to be popular and display their popularity through the amount of followers they have online and the amount of likes their selfie acquires. It’s a competitive digital world out there.
The problem is that what happens in the digital world doesn’t stay in the digital world. Social media is affecting kids and teens in very real ways. According to a study conducted by Woods and Scott, the more teens used social media and the more that they cared about their online presence, the greater their risk for impaired sleep, poor self-esteem, depression and/or anxiety.
But there’s also another major problem that arose with the advent of social media: cyberbullying. It makes sense that more kids feel more stressed these days because the amount of bullying has increased. In the past, individuals were typically bullied at school. Now, they may be bullied wherever they go, as long as they have internet access. Cyberbullying can include posting negative comments on someone’s pictures or harassing them through public posts and private messages. According to a study mentioned in The Washington Post, 9 out of 10 teenagers reported witnessing cruelty by their peers on social media.
It may seem easier to bully someone when you’re hiding behind a screen. But, cyberbullying has all the effects of real-life bullying, if not more. For example, in an instant, hundreds of people may see a negative online post about an individual. With increasing social media platforms and exposure, it is no surprise that the number of suicides linked with cyberbullying has increased among youth in recent years.
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