Unhappy teenagers, No. 1

Something is undermining young people’s mental health, especially that of girls. A study conducted by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, looked at four studies covering 7 million people, ranging from teens to adults in the US. Among her findings: high school students in the 2010s were twice as likely to see a professional for mental health issues than those in the 1980s; more teens struggled to remember things in 2010-2012 compared to the earlier period; and 73% more reported trouble sleeping compared to their peers in the 1980s. These so-called “somatic” or “of-the-body” symptoms strongly predict depression. Children are being diagnosed with higher levels of attention deficit hyperactivity and everyone from 6-18 is seeking more mental health help and more medication. It has to be said that an inability to focus or trouble sleeping do not in themselves mean children are depressed.

The trend is not a uniquely American phenomena: in the UK , the number of teenagers 15-16 with depression nearly doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s and a recent survey found British 15-year-olds were among the least happy teenagers in the world.  Those in Poland and Macedonia were the only ones who were more unhappy).

Next Tuesday, after two posts by Owen Bell,  I will continue with some explanations that have been put forward, plus suggestions about how to improve the situation.