Why Are Young Americans So Miserable?

Analysis: changes in socialization, technology, education play role in youth unhappiness

Survey after survey shows young Americans are increasingly unhappy, depressed, and even suicidal. They are America’s future, and their outlook makes that future look grim. What’s the matter with kids today?

Recent years have seen a rise in Americans 12 to 25 saying they are unhappy. Since 2012, the proportion of 8th and 10th graders who tell the Monitoring the Future survey that they felt unhappy has crept up from 13 percent to 18 percent. In roughly the same time, the proportion of 18- to 25-year-olds who say they are unhappy has risen from 11 to 17 percent, according to the General Social Survey.

These small increases underrepresent the growing group of young people for whom life has grown unbearable. Among both high schoolers and young adults, incidences of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness—culminating in major depressive episodes—have risen substantially. A recent surveyfrom the Pew Research Center found that 70 percent of teenagers think anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers, easily outpacing bullying or drug addiction.

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