Teens are more stressed than ever. In one state survey of mental health among youths, anxious feelings increased dramatically in just two years. The rate of 8th graders reporting that they had felt anxiety during the last two weeks rose from 22% in 2016 to 26% in 2018. Among 12th graders, the rate increased from 33% to 35% over the same period. 

What is causing these rising stress levels? Here are five of the biggest drivers of modern anxiety among teens. 

Anxious Teenage Student Sitting Examination In School Hall

Social Media

Peer pressure has always been a source of stress for teens. With social media, peer pressure is multiplied. Now teens aren’t just comparing themselves to their immediate social group, but also to virtual peers around the world, including many people who are professional influencers and those who started from positions of celebrity by virtue of family and other connections. 

Plus, social media creates an inherently skewed lens. People put their best life on social media and use filters to make everything seem even more spectacular, while teens see their own life unfiltered. This disparity makes teens feel that they need to work harder and make changes to improve their own life as a result. 

So it’s no wonder that social media use is linked to anxiety among teens

Rising Standards

Even while teens are being pushed by their peer groups to achieve more, they are being held to a higher standard than ever by their schools and their parents. 

Schools have developed more accelerated schedules for teaching children higher-level concepts, especially in math and science. Now kids in middle school are studying subjects their parents took in high school, and their grandparents were exposed to in college, if at all. This creates increasingly high cognitive demands on students. Meanwhile, the frequency of testing has increased, with more standardized testing being deployed to gauge their progress. Plus, with the addition of high-stakes testing, every child bears the burden of their school’s future. That’s a large burden to place on kids’ shoulders. 

Sleep Disruption

Meanwhile, kids are having more and more difficulty getting the sleep they need to properly recover from their daily stresses. Even when they technically have the time to get enough sleep, they may find it difficult to actually sleep during this time. 

Partly, sleep disruption is related to cell phone and other device use. Teens might stay on social media sites well into the night. Or perhaps they find it difficult to avoid playing mobile games at night. 

But we can also point to increased caffeine consumption among teens as a disruptor of sleep habits. Increased consumption of caffeine among teens comes in part from the rising popularity of coffee culture, but it’s also linked to energy drink consumption. Energy drinks are heavily marketed to teens, despite the fact that they’re unhealthy and can even send kids to the hospital

Global News

Children are also more anxious than ever because of their exposure to global news. The feeling of crisis surrounding issues like climate change weighs heavily on teens. While few may upend their lives in the fashion that Greta Thunberg has, the vast majority feel the urgency of the issue, as well as many other global threats that hang over our heads. 

The world has always been a place of chaos, disaster, and destruction, but never before have teens been exposed to it as they are today. In the past, chaos on the other side of the world was simply unknown to a teenager. Even with televised media, there was an opportunity for parents to serve as gatekeepers by managing consumption and providing context or comfort as necessary. But since teens now have their own web-enabled phones, they can be exposed to much more news without their parents’ control or even knowledge. 

Parents Are Stressed

In addition to all their direct stressors, teens are also exposed to secondary stress from their parents. This increases their stress and anxiety as well. 

Why are parents more stressed? All of the above factors come into play. Adults spend almost as much time on social media as teens, and they also feel the rising standards to try to live up to. If you’re not crushing it at your day job and don’t have a going side-gig, too, you’re just not living your fullest life. 

Plus, parents are expected to spend more time than ever with their children. While most adults in the past claimed their off hours as their own, these days they are expected to give many of those hours as “quality time” with their children. This can have the effect of making parent-child time into another big burden–and teens notice. 

Drug-Free Stress Relief

What can we do about these rising stress levels for teens and parents? While medication options exist, including self-medication with alcohol and other legal drugs, these options are not good for health. And they’re not ultimately effective. 

But NuCalm represents a drug-free alternative for reducing stress and improving quality of life. For many people, this could be just the solution they’re looking for.