Why Today’s Teens Are More Depressed Than Ever

Depression can affect anyone at any age. This serious mental illness causes ongoing persistent sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest, and even suicidal thoughts in severe cases. Over the last several years, teens especially have been affected by depression. 

Depression can affect teens in many ways, from how they think and feel, to how they behave. It can cause significant distress and contribute to issues in a variety of areas of a teen’s life. If you’ve been observing changes in your teen’s emotions and behavior, don’t assume it’s just normal teenage behavior. It could be a sign of depression and should not be ignored. 

Why do so many teens today suffer from depression?

Over the past several decades, researchers have been monitoring and studying teenagers and their mental health. Top tier essays and research reports, including those found in a national survey of teens in the U.S. conducted annually called Monitoring the Future, show a significant rise in teens who reported experiencing symptoms of depression beginning in 2012. This increase has continued to rise every year since then, making today’s teens the most depressed generation in several decades.

While the debate over why so many of today’s teens are suffering from depression continues, a few hypotheses are more agreed upon than others. Some of these hypotheses include:

  • Stress: Teens today are experiencing more stress than previous generations because of several factors such as lack of community, less physical activity, less time spent outside in the sun, less unstructured play or free time, and growing social pressures.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Some researchers believe that today’s teens have been raised with unrealistic expectations of life. The message that we should always be happy and feel good is inundated on teens which, as a result, has produced a generation of youth who were never taught the necessary coping skills to deal with things like increased stress, sadness, and other negative emotions. 
  • Increased smartphone use: A study done by the Pew Center found that the percentage of Americans owning a smartphone crossed 50 percent in late 2012. The use of smartphones and social media are high among teens, its unique to this current generation of youth and marks a crucial change in how they spend their time. Numerous studies have shown the more time teens spend on their smartphones and computers, the less happy and more depressed they feel. 

Treatment options available for teens with depression 

If your teen is suffering from depression, treatment options are available to help.

  • Psychotherapy: Therapy can help teens work through and understand the underlying causes of their depression and help them to develop the necessary tools to manage the symptoms, in addition to offering ongoing support. Psychotherapy can be administered in many ways, such as individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.
  • Interpersonal therapy: This type of therapy helps teens learn to foster healthy relationships by teaching useful communication skills both at home and at school. 
  • Cognitive-behavior therapy: Cognitive-behavior therapy is an effective form of treatment that helps teens to learn to identify, challenge, and change negative thought patterns and develop healthier ways in which to process their negative emotions.
  • Medication: Combined with psychotherapy, medication can be effective at relieving some symptoms of depression.

The first step to recovery is recognizing that help is needed. If your child is struggling with depression, and they come to you for help, they have taken a major step towards recovery. However, few teens seek out help on their own and many need encouragement from a friend or family member. If you think your teen may be suffering from depression, don’t be afraid to ask them about it and suggest treatment options. Treatment options can range from weekly therapy sessions at a therapist office to time spent at a residential treatment center, like polaris mental health treatment center, which specializes in helping teens.