It's not easy being a teenager, and it's not easy raising one. As cultures shift, young people are the first to display significant differences. Findings from the Monitoring the Future Study, which has been surveying 12th graders since 1976 and various teenagers since the 1990s, show a recent downward trend in happiness among middle school and high school students.
The researchers, echoing findings elsewhere, found a steady uptick in self-esteem and happiness among teens throughout the 1990s and 2000s. But they also found that since 2012, teens’ overall psychological well-being has noticeably declined. In 2012, for instance, the average happiness rating of 10th graders hovered around 2.06; by 2016, it had dropped below 2.00. The deceases were relatively modest and never fell below the ratings seen in the dark days of the early 1990s, but they were also abrupt and larger than any other momentary decrease seen in the preceding years.
The year 2012 also happens to be—not coincidentally, the researchers theorize—the first year that a slim majority of Americans reported owning a smartphone, as did over a third of teens. By 2016, over three-quarters of teens said the same.
The biggest drop was between 2012 and 2015, which further points to smartphone culture as a possible culprit. So they compared teens by the time they spent looking at screens and found a correlation between phone, computer, and TV use and lower happiness reporting. Read more about the study at Gizmodo.
(Image credit: Flickr user Esther Vargas)