Mental health issues among adolescents are on the rise in the United States, with roughly one in five teens experiencing depression or anxiety, according to a survey.
New survey results reveal the extent to which teenagers in the U.S. are struggling with their mental health — demonstrating the prevalence of anxiety, depression, bullying, drug use, suicide, and more among America’s youth.
The Teen National Health Interview Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 21% of adolescents reported experiencing symptoms of a mental disorder like anxiety in the past two weeks, while 17% reported experiencing symptoms of depression.
Those numbers were significantly higher for female and LGBTQ+ teens, with 25% and 37% experiencing symptoms of depression, respectively, and 30% and 43% experiencing anxiety, respectively.
The survey polled adolescents directly — rather than their parents — from across the country between the ages of 12 and 17 for an 18-month period from 2021 to 2022. The survey contained 95 questions covering health topics, including doctor visits, sleep, physical activity, injuries, mental health, social and emotional support, and experiences with bullying and discrimination.
The results showed that teenage depression is on the rise and that drug overdose deaths more than doubled from 2018 to 2022, from 253 to 723, with the largest increases among Hispanic and Black adolescents. Suicide, while the second leading cause of death among teens, peaked in 2018 and has declined in recent years, though rates remain high among American Indian and Alaska Native adolescents (22.2 per 100,000).
The survey also reveals high rates of abuse — with 34% experiencing bullying (34%), 17% reporting emotional abuse by a parent, and 15% experiencing neighborhood violence.
Previous research has found that screen time and social media use can negatively impact mental health, especially for young people, and the survey reveals that a whopping 92% of adolescents reported extended use of screens.
This survey builds on other evidence of the growing youth mental health crisis, which has caused alarm among mental health experts and government officials and resulted in more than half of parents saying they’re concerned about their depressed teens.
The worsening crisis led health care professionals to declare a national emergency in child mental health in 2021.
“We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, and their communities,” reads the 2021 declaration from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children’s Hospital Association. “We must identify strategies to meet these challenges through innovation and action, using state, local, and national approaches to improve the access to and quality of care across the continuum of mental health promotion, prevention, and treatment.”
Common depression symptoms:
- Lack of energy
- Temper outbursts
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor memory
- Inability to concentrate
- Worsening grades
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Threatening suicide
Signs of depression may not be evident at first, as many parents may write this off as "teens being teens," but untreated depression can lead to reckless and dangerous behavior, chronic illness, or substance abuse.
The first line of treatment for your teen should include speaking to a primary care provider who can direct you to a therapist for a combination of therapy or prescription drugs for depression and anxiety.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National health interview survey - teen (NHIS teen).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interactive Summary Health Statistics for Teens.
- The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory. Social media and youth mental health.
- American Psychiatric Association. New APA poll shows sustained anxiety among Americans; more than half of parents are concerned about the mental well-being of their children.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP-AACAP-CHA declaration of a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.