The Teen Mental Health Crisis Also Afflicts Parents

The Hill has this story by Daniel de Visé on a new Harvard study showing similar levels of anxiety and depression among teens and their parents: 

“Results from a national survey by Harvard researchers, released Tuesday, found nearly equal levels of anxiety and depression among teenagers and parents. Eighteen percent of teens reported anxiety, along with 20 percent of mothers and 15 percent of fathers. Fifteen percent of teens reported depression, joined by 16 percent of moms and 10 percent of dads. 

Researchers estimate that more than one-third of teens have a parent suffering fro anxiety or depression. Two-fifths of teens voiced concern about a parent’s mental health. . . . 

The findings, based on surveys conducted in December, appeared in a report titled Caring for the Caregivers: The Critical Link Between Parent and Teen Mental Health. It comes from Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard education school. 

The mental health of teens has been in steady decline for at least a decade, a trend that the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to accelerate. The share of high school students who reported persistent sadness or hopelessness rose from 28 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

By 2021, 42 percent of high school students and nearly 60 percent of high school girls reported chronic sadness or hopelessness. Nearly one-quarter of girls said they had made a suicide plan. 

Up to now, researchers have mostly overlooked the mental health link between teens and parents. For the new report, researchers interviewed hundreds of parents and teens in the same families.  

They found that depressed teens are five times more likely than nondepressed teens to have a depressed parent. Anxious teens are three times more likely to have an anxious parent. 

‘This harm can be compounded,’ the report states, ‘when both a teen and one or both of their parents are depressed or anxious – depressed or anxious parents and teens can inflame and wound each other in many ways.’”

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