Teens Experiencing Higher Levels of Anxiety Than Ever Before


Camryn Pollard, Staff Writer

In a NYU study, almost half of all students said they felt highly stressed on a daily basis, and thirty-one percent reported feeling slightly stressed. Noelle Leonard, PhD, a research scientist at New York University College of Nursing warns that these high stress levels may contribute to “academic disengagement and mental health problems among emerging adults.” Leonard reported that “We are concerned that students in these selective, high pressure high schools can get burned out even before they reach college.” Grades, homework, and preparing for college are top stressors for students. In the study, twenty-six percent of the participants reported depressive symptoms at a clinical level. In a survey done by the American Psychological Association, the most common source of stress reported by teenagers is school (83%). Students also report higher anxiety levels now than mental patients in the 1950’s. According to a study from the APA, “In the first study, anxiety scores from 170 samples of American college students (representing 40,192 students) were analyzed from research conducted between 1952 to 1993. The second study looked at anxiety scores during the same years in 99 samples of children (representing 12,056 children, ages 9 – 17). Both studies show a significantly large increase in anxiety levels, providing more evidence for what some authors have called ’the age of anxiety.’

The NYU study found various forms of how students deal with stress, ranging from healthy, problem-focused coping, to less adaptive, emotion focused, internal and external avoidance coping strategies. Students may choose healthy ways of coping like exercise, stepping away from school in their down time, meditating, listening to music, or even playing video games. Unhealthy ways of coping that a student might use include substance abuse or letting themselves become emotionally exhausted. The report from the study states, “Students described emotional exhaustion as a feeling of lethargy or immobilization in response to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. “I just don’t do anything,” “I won’t do any of it,” or “ I lose the ability to function” were some of the ways students described this sense of paralysis.” One student even said that they retreat to their room. They sleep and avoid interacting with anyone. Faculty at schools reported the use of an ADHD prescription, Ritalin, by students with the prescription for it and without. In the survey done by the APA, many teens report lying awake at night (35%), overeating or eating unhealthy foods (26%), and skipping meals (23%) due to stress.

Not only do students suffer from serious and debilitating mental illnesses, but their parents refuse to seek help for their children in fear that a label will be placed on their child and the treatment will prevent their child from getting into a college of their choice.