Back in 2014, a study by the American Psychological Association found that teens reported higher stress levels than adults, especially during the school year. In 2019, the Pew Research Centre found that 70 percent of teens reported anxiety and depression as a major problem among their peers. We know young people are stressed the hell out—but why?
According to the Pew Research survey, teens reported that they feel pressure to get good grades, the pressure to look good, the pressure to fit in socially, and pressure to be involved in extracurricular activities. While half of teens reported drug and alcohol use as a problem, only four percent of those surveyed reported pressure to use substances. These are age-old problems—ones I’m sure my parents struggled with in their time. Are younger generations simply worse at dealing with these pressures? I don’t think so.
My generation was one of the first to grow up with social media and instant messaging. Validation is based on how many of your friends like what you post, how many of your friends message you back regularly, and how long your Snapchat streak is. You can see when your friends are having fun without you, how great their lives are compared to yours, how happy they seem, and how many more people like them than like you. That’s stressful.
My generation is one of the last to live in the status quo. Generations following behind mine will be directly affected by climate change. I remember watching a documentary in my Grade 10 science class that showed an apocalyptic view of the world if climate change wasn’t dealt with swiftly. That was seven years ago. Kids are growing up being told that their world will change dramatically for the worse and that life as we know it is at risk of being irreversibly harmed. Those same kids get to watch old people who hold all the power do nothing about it and, in some cases, actively work against progress. That’s stressful.
My generation had the privilege of imagining that hatred and racism were almost extinct, that intolerance was a thing of the past that we read about in textbooks. Kids growing up now get to watch powerful people spout racist and hateful views on a near-daily basis. Hate crimes and violence against minority groups are on the rise. Meanwhile, the world is grappling with one of the largest refugee crises in recent memory. That’s stressful.
We live in a world where the spotlight is always on. The world demands our attention. The world demands that we work 40–hour weeks, yet still require financial assistance. The world derides us as being too lazy, but demands we work harder for the same opportunities as previous generations. The world is slowly burning while politicians throw gas on the flames. That’s stressful.
If you’re one of the people who wonders why young people are so stressed out, I have a question. Why aren’t you?