Quarter of teens are showing signs of anxiety and depression, according to survey

Lauren Clark
·3 min read
A new mental health survey has found many teenagers frequently feel “nervous, anxious or on edge”. (Getty Images)
A mental health survey has found many teenagers frequently feel “nervous, anxious or on edge”. (Getty Images)

The pandemic has been affecting the mental health of all age groups – but an abundance of research is showing young people are being hit particularly hard by the uncertainties of the past 10 months.

A mental health survey has found that a quarter of teenagers are exhibiting symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The research, conducted by the Mental Health Foundation and Swansea University, discovered that 27% of those asked how often they had felt “nervous, anxious or on edge” had done so on “most” or “nearly all” of the days in the preceding two weeks.

Additionally, a similar number were also struggling to concentrate, while a third were having trouble sleeping.

Read more: Teenage girls see sharp decline in wellbeing compared with boys - here's how to support them

The survey – which indicates that young people are under unprecedented pressure – reveals the impact on teenagers caused by missing important life events like end-of-year exams and school leaving parties, as well the absence of a socialising from not being able to see friends and enjoy their favourite hobbies.

Almost 2,400 young people in the UK, aged 13 to 19, were involved in the YouGov poll, conducted in November and December, when most schools were open.

Catherine Seymour, head of research at the foundation, believes that another round of the survey – due to take place in February – will provide “even bleaker” results now schools are shut.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, she said: “Friendships are uniquely important during teenage years. Teenagers are biologically programmed to become more independent and attach more importance, in terms of their sense of self, to friends.

Read more: One in four UK teens 'unable to cope' in pandemic - here's how to help a young person struggling with anxiety

“So the impact of not being able to mix with their friends has affected them more than it has other ages of the population.”

What’s more, the research showed that teenagers who had unemployed parents were twice as likely to feel “afraid, as if something awful might happen” and “down, depressed, irritable or hopeless” than those whose parents working full-time.

It was revealed earlier this week by the government's economic watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, that UK unemployment is likely to reach 2.6 million by the middle of 2021 – equivalent to 7.5% of the working-age population.

The findings on teen mental health arrive as the Education Policy Institute and the Prince’s Trust found that, while wellbeing and self-esteem are similar in boys and girls at the end of primary school and both decline as they become teenagers, girls see a greater decrease by the age of 14.

However, even before the pandemic a YouGov survey of 2,162 people for the Prince’s Trust discovered that 18% of young people in UK do not think life is worth living.