'We're In a New World'
American teenagers on mental health and how to cope
To be a U.S. teenager in 2023 is both the same as it ever was, and astoundingly different from even a generation ago. Along with all the classic challenges of growing up—grades, parents, first loves—looms a crop of newer ones: TikTok, gun violence, political division, the whipsaw of COVID-19 the not-so-slow creep of climate change.
"The main domains are the same: school, home, family and peers," said Dr. Asha Patton-Smith, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Virginia. But the stressors that emerge within those domains have changed tremendously in a world where the internet and real life have largely blurred into one, with everything from school to social interaction now happening at least partially online and a fire hose of bad news always only a swipe away.
This new world has taken a toll on U.S. teenagers, if the staggering data on adolescent mental health are any indication. In 2020, 16 percent of U.S. kids ages 12 to 17 had anxiety, depression or both, a roughly 33 percent increase since 2016, according to an analysis by health-policy research group KFF. The following year, 42 percent of U.S. high school students said they felt persistently sad or hopeless; 29 percent reported experiencing poor mental health; 22 percent had seriously considered suicide and 10 percent had attempted suicide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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