The youth of America faces many issues in today’s modern world, from high levels of anxiety and depression to bullying, obesity, and even problem gambling. On top of this, many young people are feeling the pressure of political issues too, with some stating that politics are impacting their mental health.
Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent social and political issues young people in America are facing today.
Anxiety and depression
The number of youths struggling with depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide continues to increase. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults, with high numbers of teens reporting very frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
Access to social media during formative years, at a point where young people are on a journey of self-discovery, are believed to be one of the key attributes to these figures. Constantly peering into a digital world of unrealistic standards can have hugely negative impacts on self-esteem and self-worth.
FOMO (fear of missing out) and less engagement in team sports and other peer activities due to time spent on technology is believed to leave youths feeling a stronger sense of isolation and loneliness. On top of this, perceptions and fears of what is going on in the world, from climate change to viral pandemics, are also said to be impacting increasing figures.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20% of adolescents in America are obese. While overeating and an inactive lifestyle contribute to obesity among young people, other factors like genes, socio-economic issues, sleep deprivation, and lifestyle choices can also play a role.
Obesity puts these young people at a much greater risk of lifelong health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol. It also makes them a greater target for bullying, and more at risk of mental health problems like depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Overweight youth may also struggle with body image issues and develop eating disorders as a way of changing their appearance.
An age-old struggle that most generations can identify with, bullying has always been and will continue to be a problem among young people. Placing young, insecure, and impressionable people in situations like high schools, with others that are experiencing the same fears and anxieties, will always likely lead to cases of bullying.
However, the big challenge facing the youth today is that of cyberbullying. With much of young people’s lives being online and digital, cyberbullying is becoming more and more prevalent. It can occur over social media, text, instant messaging, and gaming, with it having the power to gain a large audience and become an almost theatrical display of humiliation for online viewers. Its prevalence comes down to the fact that it’s harder for authority figures, like teachers, to intervene and police such matters. Harassment can also occur outside of school or workplace hours, with bullies being able to torment their victims round the clock.
The youth of today are very much influenced by what is going on around them. Understanding and finding one’s own opinion on politics can be a huge challenge, especially for those who find it hard to differentiate between “good” and “bad” news sources and those who are hounded by information and disinformation over social media platforms. It’s easy to see how, in some cases, these feelings can turn to those of worry and anxiety, which can have a negative impact on their mental health.
In recent years, major national controversies, such as school shootings and police violence against black people, have led to young people in America losing faith that getting engaged in politics will make their lives or futures better. A Harvard Youth Poll carried out in spring this year by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found that many youth believe that “political involvement rarely has tangible results”, their vote “doesn’t make a difference” and that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges their country is facing”.
Since this poll was carried out, one of the most historic controversial decisions to date occurred – the overturning of the constitutional right to abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court – with 69% of young people disagreeing with this decision. The decision has had far reaching personal and political implications, with some people hoping it may spark more young people to vote and to get more involved in politics.