Why are teenagers so sad?

If your teenager seems moody, you’re not alone. According to a study released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of American high school students who report feeling “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26% in 2009 to 44% in 2021.

And don’t blame COVID-19 lockdowns, argues Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg: “Rising teenage sadness isn’t a new trend, but rather the acceleration and broadening of a trend that clearly started before the pandemic.”

The Atlantic
’s Derek Thompson identifies four other possible sources of rising teenage angst, including increased social media use, declining sociality, more stressful world news, and intensive modern parenting strategies.

And these aren’t all wrong. As Thompson notes, there was a significant spike in teenage sadness around 2012, which just also happens to be when the percentage of people in the United States who owned a smartphone passed
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