Why are so many adolescents so anxious?

Why is Adolescent Anxiety Spiking?

Last week The New York Times ran a huge (even by New York Times’ standards) article rhtzkszznd
on adolescent anxiety.
It was scary yet familiar. Stories I’d heard from friends and acquaintances suddenly fit into a framework. Their young loved ones live in fear of the world.

You’ll recall that a week or so ago I countered a popular article that claimed the lack of play could be what lead the Vegas shooter to do his evil deed. I said that with 330,000,000 people in America and only one Vegas shooter, you couldn’t say that X always (or even often, or even directly) led to Y. So I don’t think these very anxious students profiled by the Times represent an entire generation, and I can’t say that our society’s insistence on overprotection is what caused these sad cases. But it does seem that something is going on, so here are some excerpts from the piece by Benoit Denizet-Lewis:

Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent.

Those numbers — combined with a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall — come as little surprise to high school administrators across the country, who increasingly report a glut of anxious, overwhelmed students. While it’s difficult to tease apart how much of the apparent spike in anxiety is related to an increase in awareness and diagnosis of the disorder, many of those who work with young people suspect that what they’re seeing can’t easily be explained away. “We’ve always had kids who didn’t want to come in the door or who were worried about things,” says Laurie Farkas, who was until recently director of student services for the Northampton public schools in Massachusetts. “But there’s just been a steady increase of severely anxious students.”

What’s happening, according to the article, is not simply a matter of perfectionist expectations, or hovering parents. Whatever “it” is — the source of anxiety — has become internalized:

It’s tempting to blame helicopter parents with their own anxiety issues for that pressure (and therapists who work with teenagers sometimes do), but several anxiety experts pointed to an important shift in the last few years. “Teenagers used to tell me, ‘I just need to get my parents off my back,’ ” recalls Madeline Levine, a founder of Challenge Success, a Stanford University-affiliated nonprofit that works on school reform and student well-being. “Now so many students have internalized the anxiety. The kids at this point are driving themselves crazy.”

The antidote probably is complex, but one element must be giving the kids time to NOT be in student mode. Having some kind of real world job is one good thing — a young person who feels part of society, contributing to it, seems less likely to be terrified of it.

And also extremely valuable is some free time for young people to do things on their own, just out of curiosity and fun, not to pad a resume or please an adult. Of course sometimes interests and external success do overlap — a kid can love piano and get a scholarship. But if a kid loves the kazoo — that’s worth their time, too. (Just, God willing, not in my  apartment.)

No one thing guarantees a well-adjusted or mal-adjusted human. But the benefits of free time, free play are some real world responsibility are hard to dispute. – L.


Why are adolescent anxiety rates soaring? 


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90 Responses to Why is Adolescent Anxiety Spiking?

  1. Specht October 23, 2017 at 6:07 am #

    I also think that part of the issue could be the increased tendency toward overmedication ane over-medicalization. There are probably around a handful of conditions which are routinely over-diagnosed and misdiagnosed. Additionally, some of these conditions, for better or worse seem to be more glorified and romanticized more by the media these days. I think both of these factors may lead to a more watered-down and trivialized impression of the conditions by society. It would be interesting to see a study done on these attitudes. I know people are starting to look more at over/mis-diagnosis, and question media depictions.

    I know I have caught a lot of people who use anxiety , or having a “panic attack” as a catch-all phrase for any kind of run-of-the mill stress or nervousness that any healthy person would experience in certain situations, when it really isn’t the same. I have certainly made an effort to correct myself on my own terminology.

  2. JTW October 23, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    Having parents, teachers, and basically everyone else hover over them constantly, bombarding them with stories of how dangerous and mean the world is, and how they’re useless if they aren’t straight-A students even in kindergarten, if they want to do anything but study and competition sports, has a very great deal to do with it.

    Of course that’s not going to sell medication and counseling sessions with expensive psychologists, so it’s downplayed harshly in “scientific” studies run and funded by just the people who have the biggest interest in furthering those medication prescriptions and counseling sessions.

    That’s not to say that’s the entire story of course, but it’s a large part of it.
    The ever increasing pace of society, being constantly connected, having next to no privacy (either real or perceived), entirely unrealistic beauty ideals pushed by the fashion and cosmetics industries, all are factors as well, and no doubt important factors for many people.

    And it’s not just teens either, the same is to a large extend true for adults. Parents who’re not properly anxious for their children’s safety are shunned, arrested, can get their children taken away. No wonder they end up on the psychologist’s couch and with a bottle of happy pills, especially as this goes together with having to constantly worry about losing your job for some perceived minor fault or even having a politically incorrect opinion that someone in HR finds out about.

  3. EB October 23, 2017 at 8:29 am #

    I found school to be sometimes stressful — but my real anxiety came from comparing myself to my (also teen-aged) peers. BUT, I only spent 6 hours a day with them, and a few hours a week socializing. Today, teenagers effectively spend 16 or 18 hours a day with each other thanks to the internet and cell phones. This can’t be helping. they need to be spending more time with people of other age groups, so they can stop thinking about themselves all the time.

  4. invader October 23, 2017 at 8:29 am #

    Reminds me of kingsly he wrote of the Tom Toddies in water babes. They are literal anxious turnips, that have forgotten how to play, live or do anything. They live in constant fear of the examiner, always crying and cramming their heads with facts. Even then own parents discourage them from anything else. Kinda sad knowing this was written mid 1800’s, and relevant today. I would encourage many kids today to read this book.

  5. Dora October 23, 2017 at 9:13 am #

    Years ago, when I was in high school, my philosophy teacher said something interesting about depression. She said expectations used to be pretty clear for kids: You will grow up to be a (insert job title) just like your dad, you will marry and have children, and so on. These expectations might have felt wrong and the kids might have rebelled against them, but at least, it was clear what they were supposed to do and what they were refusing to do. Nowadays, parents don’t pressure their kids by thinking they can choose their future career, they wan to encourage them, let them know they can be anything they want. Just one thing they ask of their kid: be happy. Become happy is a lot more wage than become a doctor, it’s an impossible and confusing demand if one thinks about it. How do you follow such a direction, or rebell against it, for that matter?

  6. Theresa Hall October 23, 2017 at 9:28 am #

    Between worrywart parents and Society idea of pumping as much information as possible into the brains it no wonder the kids have issues.

  7. Crazy Cat Lady October 23, 2017 at 9:38 am #

    My daughter was having “anxiety” attacks at school. It happened most with presentations, but often with random things. Usually in the afternoon. It was mind boggling as shes had done 4-H and other competitions.

    We went to the doctor, she said her symptoms, including that she wasn’t sleeping well. Given drugs that would help, and also help her sleep. Went on for a year and coming back. Until…we finally got a sleep study done.

    And found she has narcolepsy. She needed a stimulant to keep her awake as she was not sleeping well at night and was microsleeping during the day. Probably dreaming too, and when waking not knowing what was going on. She looked awake when these things happened, but kind of catatonic.

    Since getting on the appropriate medication….no more anxiety attacks. I suspect that misdiagnosis is more common than people think.

    (Yes, we had homeschooled up to 9th grade, but she had friends, she did things, got pushed to move out of her own safety zone. I have friends who won’t let kids walk down the road….I encourage it. And she has a flip phone, not a cell phone. She does spend time on social media, but not excessive. Sometimes…there just is a real reason but too many doctors don’t know what to look for.)

  8. Coccinelle October 23, 2017 at 9:53 am #

    @Dora Saying that parents having only the expectation of being happy for their children is what is causing major anxiety is really depressing. Also, even if the parents are really like that, I don’t think the school system is like that. I think the school system is telling them that their life is ruined if they failed only one time.

  9. Dienne October 23, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    I don’t know, maybe it’s not fair to blame everything on one day, but today’s adolescents are the first to grow up entirely in the shadow of September 11. Many of us old enough to remember that day remember how everything changed after that. Not only did we take some perhaps common sense steps like locking cockpit doors, but we went so far overboard that now Americans – the inhabitants of the alleged land of the free and home of the brave – are now willing to submit to virtual or actual strip searches just to get on a plane (or even into certain buildings). We willingly “carry our papers” which we have to present nearly everywhere. We’re just fine with police and security services patrolling public transportation with dogs and demanding people to open their backpacks, purses, briefcases, etc. We’re inundated with signs saying “If You See Something, Say Something”. We are taught to distrust – even fear – our fellow citizens, especially if they are somehow “other”. Indefinite detention, “stop and frisk”, profiling and many other forms of guilty until proven innocent are now the norm. We must control everything – you just never know where the next terrorist is lurking, and you never can be too safe. If deadly threats are lurking everywhere, how can anyone *not* be anxious?

  10. Dienne October 23, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    There is also the fact that today’s millennials are the first generation to have a lower standard of living than their parents, and there is pretty good indication that the trend will continue. When my parents were young adults, there was pretty much an assumption (upheld by facts) that if you had a pulse you could earn a decent middle class living. Today the middle class is a shell of what it was, so if you want your child to have a shot at a similar lifestyle as your own, there is an urgency to push your child to excel, to be one of the dwindling few to get those coveted middle class jobs, which mostly require a college education these days. Due to automation, globalization and diminishing union power, the days where factory workers, secretaries and truck drivers could join in the American Dream are ending, so there is a real fear that if your child isn’t among the “best and brightest”, they could end up in poverty.

  11. Barbara F Crooks October 23, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    I am not really convinced that the occurrences of anxiety are that much increased, I think it is more that the stigma of having “mental” issues such as anxiety has reduced to a point were more people are willing to admit to it.

  12. SKL October 23, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    I don’t know how anxiety can actually be up that much. Maybe they have increased the availability and encouragement to seek services (I don’t believe it was much of a thing on the campus I lived on – if it was, it was kept secret). Maybe the make-up of the campus population has changed. Maybe this is a reflection of the results of substance use and abuse during critical times in child / adolescent development. Or the need to have a diagnosis and accommodations for every inconvenient learning or behavior difference.

    I was going to say all kinds of things I used to do as a kid which prepared me to take on the challenges of college. But there are things kids today deal with that prepare them too – just not the same things. I think it probably balances out for the most part.

    The exception may be when parents systematically teach their kids to feel afraid or unequal to the challenges they will face. The ones who constantly fight their kids’ battles and take more offense at everything than the kids take. Also those who are afraid to tell their kids, “you may just not be talented in this area.”

    Oh and maybe I will blame a little of it on facebook. The need to be able to prove you or your kid is as good as your friend’s kid who just got into the gifted program or graduated summa cum laude. We should probably all fight against that tendency.

  13. Jill Adams October 23, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    Agree completely with your take. I also liked this letter to the editor written by a high school student, published over the weekend: “Why do we have to think about our adult life every day as a teenager?”


  14. Reziac October 23, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

    When all their time is managed, they’re expected to perform 24 hours a day (that is, to fulfill some structured expectation), and that inevitably leads to failure to perform, which with demanding parents is extremely stressful for the kid, especially since the parents’ reaction to failure-to-perform is usually to demand MORE performance. This when kid are already in the failure-prone adolescent experimentation mode (aka “making the usual juvenile mistakes”). So why would a spike in teenage anxiety be unexpected??!

  15. Louisa October 23, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    It’s a baffling puzzle. My young teen has an anxiety disorder and I’m a pretty free range parent. She started walking to the library by herself when she was 6! She has tons of personal freedom and is very responsible. And yet…. So I think there are many factors leading to the rise of adolescent anxiety. There is a tremendous amount of academic pressure these days and far too much homework. Homework should be eliminated entirely until high school. That would be a huge stress reliever for kids and parents.

  16. John B. October 23, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    I received my degree in Community Health and then Health Education back in 1979 and 1981 respectively and I remember school as being stressful, for me anyways. But certainly not to the point of needing to see a counselor. It seems as if I had 5 solid hours worth of work each night that I needed to complete in 2 hours so I can understand what college kids are going through. It taught me a real lesson on time management which is something very applicable in the working world. With my impending retirement 2 years away, thank God those days are behind me! But if I recollect, most of my college classmates back then didn’t stress out over it like I did. Maybe I wasn’t as mentally tough as they were and perhaps MOST college kids today aren’t as mentally tough as college kids were back then.

    In many of my health courses, we talked about stress and how much wear and tear it brought on our bodies. We also were taught that certain stressors or life events can cause sickness. Believe it or not, we were also taught that a certain level of stress is actually a good thing. It teaches us mental toughness and how to effectively prepare for certain life events and job related responsibilities.

    My health education emphasized that stress is a part of life and that EVERYBODY at some point of their lives will go thru stress. Now some of that stress, we’re able to eliminate but much of the stress we encounter is inevitable. So the key is, HOW WE HANDLE AND REACT TO STRESS and a truly healthy person will react positive to it. Ever notice that some people stress out over the darndest things but yet some people are so cool and collective when faced with enormous responsibility and decisions to make. If you can somehow train yourself to fit into the latter group, life will be much easier for you!

    But you can’t do it by eliminating ALL stress in your life.

  17. Amy October 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

    I agre that you can’t eliminate all stess, but we aren’t talking about college. I though the article was discussing middle school and the forst half of high school. How much stress do we want them to have? They’re just kids.

  18. SKL October 23, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    I think we worry too much about kids having stress. I think we’re trying to hard to protect them from something that is normal. Things have gotten a lot easier since the days when kids were regularly flogged and publicly humiliated in school. Maybe the problem is that we are treating them like special snowflakes when they can actually deal with some adversity by KG.

  19. SKL October 23, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    When we grew up and went to school, there were certain teachers who would hurt the children anyway they could… by pouring their derision upon everything we did … exposing every weakness, however carefully hidden by the kid! (credit to Pink Floyd…).

  20. Miriam Drukker October 23, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    Some of the increase could also be that the conversation around anxiety has increased (and the general talk about mental well being has increased, and it’s more acceptable to share). Anxiety and depression are related. In the past – if people felt something – they thought (or people around them thought) they had depression. Now they think anxiety. I’ve never heard the term in my youth, and very rarely in my adult life up to ~10 years ago. I did hear depression, anorexia, etc. I’m sure many of those cases had anxiety in them.

    Regarding stress: in the past “stress” meant “busy”. Lots of stuff to do. But that’s not stress as a mental health issue.

    To John B:

    “Ever notice that some people stress out over the darndest things but yet some people are so cool and collective when faced with enormous responsibility and decisions to make.”

    It’s not always either-or. I am both. I stress over the smallest things (fex get overly annoyed by misplaced things), but usually can handle with great cool the bigger issues. I guess when it’s smaller issues – I do not really care if I will not make wise decisions. But when it’s serious – I gather my mental strength to deal with it. Usually…

  21. Andrea October 23, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

    “Today, teenagers effectively spend 16 or 18 hours a day with each other thanks to the internet and cell phones. This can’t be helping.”

    I think EB hit the nail on the head. There is no escape like there was when I was a kid/teenager. I know I feel better when I disconnect, but I can afford to. I’m not at all surprised by the increase.

  22. Miriam Drukker October 23, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

    Maybe too much responsibility at a young age could be stressful too… We had very few official ‘rules’ at home when I was young. The only rules I remember are the hour of meal time and bedtime, eating a healthy sandwich (with cheese / egg) before eating a sandwich with a sweet spread (jam/honey/chocolate), and that I had to practice 30 minutes a day the piano. We were supposed to clean our room, usually on a specific day, but if we missed it – we just had to live with the mess.
    It was just expected that we (my siblings and I) have common sense and behave well. We didn’t have timeouts or rules about TV (there wasn’t much TV anyhow when and where I grew up) or how many candies we were allowed. If we got candies – we at them all at once or saved for later, and when they were gone – they were gone until the next special occasion (birthday party or something). I knew that if I misbehaved I’d be scolded or yelled at, and it was rarely a surprise for me (I knew when I did something wrong).

    But… sometimes I wished my mom would just give me rules. Or hints. To what she thinks is a good way to live my life. How much she expected us to help with chores, as it’s easier to follow them to figure out what she thinks is right…

    And also – a lot of the stress could be passed from other kids. Maybe you do not talk about dangers that may raise anxieties, but other kids do. There’s a lot more exposure to information and media and terrible news, and maybe that’s affecting her. I don’t know… Good luck…

  23. Donna October 23, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    My very free-range kid has anxiety issues. I have no idea where they come from. Probably just her make-up as a person. She is a worrier by nature.

    But I also question whether there really are more cases of anxiety or just a greater willingness to talk about mental illness. I think it is most likely the latter.

  24. Dee October 23, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

    Personally, I think it’s the over-emphasis on grades and career outcomes that are leading to higher anxiety in kids. As early as third grade, kids are being pushed to “succeed.” It’s a zero sum game, with A’s being the only thing that counts. Add to the homework that goes along w/ those As, more activities, and little down time (and much of that in front of a screen) and it’s like a perfect recipe for anxiety.

    I try hard to moderate both the activities and my response to grades, but it’s hard! Parents are pushed the message that kids have to get to college and succeed in the job market or they will live in poverty. My son has commented multiple times about how upsetting mass shootings are. He feels his generation has a super-stressful world and all he wants to do is live in a van. (Admittedly, I lived in a van for 3 mos.) We all need to chill.

  25. SKL October 23, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

    It’s true, some of us are genetically wired for anxiety. I happen to be one of them. I don’t consider it a mental illness though.

    Recently I’ve looked into what my genes predict (and my kids’ too). There are some “worrier / warrior” genes, and in at least one case, it looks like maybe the worrier gene is dominant if you have both. If that is the case, it could help explain an actual increase in anxiety. But again, I’m not sure I would consider that an illness.

  26. Arlington Mom October 23, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    Wow Lenore! This is creepy that I just talked to my daughter about this same topic the past weekend (and I didn’t read the NYT article). We are developing ‘No Responsibility Zones’ where she is supposed to try to be free of the high pressures of school and homework. She does have a dog walking job to which she looks forward. Other ideas from parents here will be considered and possibly implemented too.

  27. Sarah October 23, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

    I think there are several factors and other folks and you, Lenore have touched upon it. Their worlds are different. We used to escape school at 3pm and home at 8am. Now with technology, the constant monitoring it never ends. Think “behavior” charts in preschool. Everyone learns they are under constant evaluation on some level.

    I teach an after school self-defense for girls on Mondays. So it is 4:30-5:30pm. They are ages 10-14. And by the time they get to me they are spent and many of them still have 1-3 hours of homework to go. They do more work than I did pre-kids. And they aren’t paid to do it either. I just want to give them the hour to chill.

  28. common sense October 23, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

    amy..they’re just kids. that’s what’s wrong. the general feeling nowadays seems to be they’re just kids they can’t handle stress, they can’t handle being excluded from the “cool” group, they can’t handle criticism, they can’t handle being less then perfect because they’re “just” kids. I have a news flash. you would be amazed at what “just” kids can handle. I am in no way saying bullying or abuse are good but parents are so convinced that kids can’t handle any difficulty on their own that they jump in before the poor child has a chance to figure it out on their own. they only way you learn how to deal with life is by living, not have some one live it for you. by the time most kids get the point to where they have to solve a problem on their own they can’t do it, they have no experience of it. if the parent is always checking homework[which I personally feel is too much of it too soon] checking off reading lists, helping with projects and making the child’s extra sports and activities a family priority, of course the kids is a nervous wreck. what will I do if mom or dad isn’t here micromanaging my life? what ever will I do? I’ve had kids so terrified of being without their parents in a lesson that they became hysterical because they had no idea how to follow directions if mom or dad didn’t explain it their own way. parents the best thing for your kids you can do is let them fail on occasion. praise the effort but don’t hang a blue ribbon on it if it doesn’t deserve it. encourage them to try again and yes offer constructive criticism. when they argue with their friends and age mates don’t immediately jump in to solve it step back and you may be amazed how just kids will learn how to compromise and get along.

  29. Amy October 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    I think that has more to do with independence though. You’re right kids can handle these things, you can’t get rid of all stress and anxiety. I was referring to piling to much of that on kids too soon.

  30. lollipoplover October 23, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    I see this far too often.
    Some kids are hardwired to be anxious. Many more it seems *catch* the anxiety from their parents and become worrywarts and overachievers in this most perfect child competition.
    It’s bad both ways for these kids.

    I consider myself a very laid back person. As parents, we don’t stress perfection but do ask for effort. I let them know that I make mistakes (often). I don’t expect straight A’s but ask that they be prepared.
    Having chores, jobs, and being asked to babysit, pet sit, and do odd jobs for neighbors helps develop self-confidence and self-esteem. Kids are remarkably capable of handling every day tasks at early ages and benefit from real life experience.

  31. NY Mom October 23, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    Competive societies foster anxiety.
    Cooperative societies foster nurturing, compassion and calm.

    It’s all about lifestyle.

  32. lollipoplover October 23, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

    @NY Mom-


    It helps share with children the younger chapters of our lives when we learned what we wanted to be when we grew up and how our resume of jobs and interests has changed throughout the years as we evolve. My kids know that at the peak of my work career, I hit the pause button to be a stay-at-home mom because I was overwhelmed. I no longer work in my college major (marketing) and the jobs I held after graduating no longer exist. Having hobbies, interests, pets, and circles of friends and family has always been more important than wealth. The leaner years are when we got creative and had the most fun. College isn’t the end all of achievement, they have an entire lifetime to live and figure out what makes them tick.

  33. Donald October 23, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

    Question – Why is Adolescent Anxiety Spiking?
    Answer/question – How can it not increase to epidemic proportions?

    The media, Internet, and sales strategies have found the weakness in the brain. It grabs a hold of fear and outrage and exploits it for all it can. The outcome of this guarantees anxiety.

    However, the human species can resist this exploitation. Unfortunately, many don’t. They welcome it. I’m not saying that they love to be exploited. I’m saying they indulge in the fun chemicals like Dopamine that comes from fight or flight mode. The short-sightedness of people determines that “Let’s go for the fun and ignore the consequences”! This is because the consequences are hard to see or rather their actions having any effect on the world.

    Bureaucracies play a part of this as well. They can’t help overstepping. Stranger danger is an example. The fact that nothing can ever be safe enough is another one. The sex offender laws are so extreme that it’s easy to believe that there is a child rapist on every corner.

  34. Glen October 23, 2017 at 4:40 pm #

    At the turn of the century, psychologists, counseling, and the use of psychotropic drugs were much less prevalent. Parents told their kids to suck it up, quit whining, and that life was hard. All great advice. Given good relationship, kids will rise to whatever expectation we parents set for them. Teach your kids to be tough. This isn’t taught anymore that I can see.

  35. Theresa Hall October 23, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

    Once people knew when to help and when to butt out. Yes sometimes meds are helpful but sometimes time and patience and understanding work much better. Today meds are being used as an easy way out when adults don’t want to deal with kids. Meds have a time and place but not every situation is one for meds.

  36. Donald October 23, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

    Don’t eat the fish. Leslie Nielson taught us a few things about some of the reasons for the increase in mental disorders


  37. lollipoplover October 23, 2017 at 7:01 pm #

    “Teach your kids to be tough. This isn’t taught anymore that I can see.”

    Not really. I consider my kids pretty tough, but also smart enough to recognize situations they cannot control. They don’t have to just “suck it up”
    Sometimes it’s braver to know and recognize when you need to ask for help than do it alone. If they are having trouble in a class or a relationship, it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. They will make mistakes. Resiliency doesn’t mean tough love and going it solo.

  38. Carolyn October 23, 2017 at 7:49 pm #

    Seems like bringing constantly compared to others would be a trigger for anyone. WHAT ELSE does social media do?

  39. Dienne October 23, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

    “Once people knew when to help and when to butt out.”

    Sure would like to know when that time was. There’s always been a tendency to mind everyone else’s business when it comes to so-called “moral” (usually sexual) issues, but to keep one’s distance when it comes to helping out.

  40. JTW October 24, 2017 at 12:13 am #

    @CrazyCatLady I can identify with that, narcolepsy is nasty and hard to diagnose. Took decades for it to be recognised in me…
    Still have anxiety attacks though, they’re having a different cause in me. Techniques handed me by psychologists keep them under reasonable control, but have to be constantly aware of things and what situations to avoid.

  41. Nicole R. October 24, 2017 at 6:07 am #

    I agree with many posters about the increase in school pressure. Kids are being asked to learn things earlier and earlier, often well before they’re ready, and told they need to be busy practically every second just to make their college applications look good.

    I also agree with:

    Dienne that the “post 9/11 world” plays a part. My kid goes to school with normal kid worries about whether he’ll do well on a test, but there’s also that tiny thought somewhere in the back that this will be the day he needs to use the “active shooter drill” protocol they practiced.

    and with:

    Andrea about the lack of time to disconnect. Kids are surrounded by information all the time, and don’t often just breathe and forget about everything for a while like they used to.

    And I’d like to add one more thing that I either missed or that wasn’t mentioned yet – the permanence of the internet. We used to make stupid mistakes as kids, but they were soon forgotten. Today’s kids feel like everything they do follows them forever.

  42. J- October 24, 2017 at 6:42 am #

    I think a lot has to do with the “everything is political” crowd. Don’t let your kid dress as Moran for Halloween because it’s racist. Trump will deport you if you speak Spanish in public. We have the KKK in the White House. I’ve heard all of these. Maybe kids believe the hyperbole and think we are hopelessly doomed. When I was a kid I didn’t have to worry about my haircut meaning I was a Nazi or culturally appropriating some marginalized group.

  43. SKL October 24, 2017 at 8:40 am #

    There were big scary things when we were kids too. Remember “Fallout Shelters” in school? Or am I the only one who is that old?

    Here’s a thought. When we were kids, we worried about being spanked (at home or at school). Up until about 7yo when we realized that we would still get spanked, but it wasn’t going to kill us. Bad shit happened but we lived through it and moved on. Maybe it gave us some resilience that many of today’s kids don’t have. I’m sure it’s better than worrying about bad shit that never happened, or being disciplined in ways that don’t make sense to a young child.

  44. Theresa Hall October 24, 2017 at 9:13 am #

    True after 9-11 people started worrying more. I remember having a bomb threat when I was in school and I thought if a was a gunman threat it would be a big deal but bombs are rarely used in schools. So even when it was over and the bomb was just a tall tale many kids were freaking out about it. I couldn’t see myself being upset about bomb that was never there. Couldn’t get why they were. I felt bad that they were upset but I didn’t get see a reason to be upset. Nobody was freaking out when they were looking for a bomb but when it over people freak out.

  45. SKL October 24, 2017 at 9:17 am #

    Yeah, bomb threats took the place of fallout drills. We also had drills for tornadoes, which were a much more immediate concern.

  46. lollipoplover October 24, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    @SKL- I remember being in middle school over 30 years ago and my father had a massive heart attack. I had called home on a payphone at school and no answer. Some 2 hours later (and I just hung out at school), a relative came to pick me up and told me my dad had almost died. He was in the hospital for months with surgeries and I just kept going to school and never even considered calling the guidance counselor. I was worried about him, but my family supported me and I think I only told a few close friends (who became my lifetime best friends).

    Today, my youngest daughter is in 6th grade and had a guidance counselor come to their room to speak with the class because one of her classmates is getting glasses and the guidance counselor told the class to compliment the girl on how she looked great in glasses and to say positive things to her as she was extremely anxious to wear the glasses to school. Funny, my daughter doesn’t need glasses but wanted to wear the fake ones because she thought it looked cool. I don’t know the answer, but it seems that we are making small changes such monumental issues for no reason at all.

  47. Joseph Magil October 24, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s, childhood anxiety was nonexistent.

  48. SKL October 24, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    I still haven’t had time to read the whole article, but I have now read part of it. Maybe they aren’t telling the whole story, but I found it a bit alarming how quickly the families of these teens jumped to psychotherapy, drugs, and even *residential treatment.* I thought residential treatment was for kids who are a danger to themselves and others. Not sleep-away camp for kids who don’t want to go to school.

    The drugs concern me the most on several levels. They distort the teen’s reality including his actual level of coping. They interact with the body’s chemistry and always have negative side effects. There was also no mention of attempting less invasive interventions, such as considering the individual’s unique body chemistry and diet and whether certain things are just not possible nor necessary for certain people.

    Is it the parents who are into avoidance here? Who told them the teen years were supposed to be easy? (I also don’t believe this is a cross-section of society, but rather a bunch of families who are used to the idea that money can fix just about everything.)

    There were days, especially in 8th grade, when I was afraid to go to school because I was being bullied – and the main bully was doing things like dumping nasty stuff in my hair so I would look like an unkempt slob to everyone else. Plus I hated daily gym class, where there was way too much scrutiny over whether we showered well enough and the other girls noticed my shabby clothes and shoes. Basically 8th grade / 13yo had few redeeming qualities. I probably did skip school sometimes – pretending to be sick – but then I got my shit together and went to school and dealt with it. In the end the bullies got bored or even came to respect me. I lived through it. I’m pretty sure that taught me a lot about myself – for free.

    Another thing I found strange was that Jake, an apparently intelligent and hard-working person, was 17 early in the 11th grade. To me that is old, and it makes me wonder if that is one reason why his “childhood” wasn’t working so well for him. At that age he should have been much farther along the independence continuum. When I was 17 I was in college, and if I didn’t want to go to school, my mom would have said, well OK, you realize this is probably going to hurt your grade. And the profs would be like, whatever, your loss. It was my choice. Having choices is actually less stressful than having someone else telling you what you need to do.

    And who’s telling these people that they are going to be failures if they don’t get a great college degree? Even if it’s their own idea, why aren’t their parents sitting them down and talking about the reality – that there are lots of options as long as you’re willing to wake up in the morning and put some clothes on? One of my kids is considering a cosmetology career. Great! As long as it pays the bills and you don’t hate it, that is good enough. Everything else is icing on the cake.

  49. SKL October 24, 2017 at 11:02 am #

    And, I am curious about hippotherapy. Is this just an excuse to let rich kids enjoy a luxury on the insurance company’s dime, or is there something to it? If there is some actual psychological benefit to equine therapy, what is it? Serious question. (My kids ride horses, and I’m happy to believe this is good for them – I can think of a few reasons, but I think taking care of the family pets or babysitting or building a bike from scrap would cover similar things.)

  50. Dienne October 24, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    Joseph Magil – bullshit. You just didn’t notice.

  51. Amy October 24, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    Well that’s a possibility he didn’t notice. But, even growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I didn’t even notice as much anxiety and stress going on with kids. Certaintly not before high school.

  52. Laura Kuennen-Poper October 24, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    While this appears as a new trend in the US, this has been a normal part of teenage/young adult years in other countries where there are choke-points for opportunity, for example, in some Asian and European countries. In Japan, Korea, India, and (to some extent) China, kids take tests in their early teen-age years. The results of those tests determine which schools/trades the children will be allowed to pursue. Once the results of the test are known, that is it: a child has no choice but to follow that path (or emigrate). I have a theory (wholly unsupported by any research, just a gut sense) that as opportunity has become limited in the US the stakes have been raised, and as the stakes have been raised there is much more anxiety about the future, especially for young people. Up until the 1970’s a person without a college degree could be assured of finding a job that would pay a living wage; now, even people with college degrees are looking at long-term under- and un-employment. Only the extraordinarily privileged in the US can look to a future without anxiety.

  53. SKL October 24, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

    “Only the extraordinarily privileged in the US can look to a future without anxiety.”

    This is irrational. But if this is the message we are giving our kids, no wonder they are anxious.

  54. shdd October 24, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

    lollipoplover – Are you serious about the glasses? My daughter had her braces and glasses in elementary school and no one said a word. The only time they had extra counseling was when in 1st grade a classmate died of leukemia. They wanted to make sure the students knew and could process the information in an age appropriate fashion. I didn’t find out until years later when we came across an article in a local magazine.

  55. Dienne October 24, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    “But, even growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I didn’t even notice *as much* anxiety and stress going on with kids.” [Emphasis added].

    There’s a difference between not as much anxiety vs. anxiety being “non-existent”.

  56. Dienne October 24, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    SKL, did you read Laura’s entire post? There’s nothing irrational about it. The world has changed a lot since the 70s, especially economically. “Up until the 1970’s a person without a college degree could be assured of finding a job that would pay a living wage; now, even people with college degrees are looking at long-term under- and un-employment.” Look at all the young adults graduating from college (or worse, having to drop out because they can’t afford it any more) and not being able to find decent employment while still having to repay their loans. This is definitely a huge source of anxiety for high school kids who are looking at that as their future. On the other hand, not going to college might not be tenable either, as non-“professional” (i.e., no college degree) jobs are increasingly not paying wages that can support a family (maybe not even an individual). The middle class has been hollowed out and it’s increasingly hard to find and maintain a place in it. If you’re not one of the lucky elite, you are very definitely likely to face periods of unemployment and/or low-wage dead-end jobs.

  57. lollipoplover October 24, 2017 at 1:35 pm #


    Yes. She told me about this last week. I got glasses in 7th or 8th grade and didn’t care how I looked- I could finally see the board!

    I don’t know why, but the guidance counselor gets involved with many issues that I expect my kid to work out on her own socially. My daughter had a classmate that would growl at her and never spoke to her, and she thought this was odd, but just ignored it as she had other close friends in the class. The guidance counselor got involved as the growling child’s mother called the school and said the kids were excluding her daughter and they had to give up lunch time to spend time learning “how to be good friends”. Apparently, not speaking to another classmate now equates meanness. These kids can’t win and the adults around them are attempting to better every situation.
    How about talking to the kid who growls and teaching them better communication skills to succeed in life?

  58. lollipoplover October 24, 2017 at 1:53 pm #


    “Look at all the young adults graduating from college (or worse, having to drop out because they can’t afford it any more) and not being able to find decent employment while still having to repay their loans. This is definitely a huge source of anxiety for high school kids who are looking at that as their future.”

    I know that some do exist, but all of the recent graduates I know in the past few years have decent jobs and are currently looking for first homes to buy. Getting married, too. Yes, they have some student debt but most worked through college. They went to state schools so the debt wasn’t overwhelming.

    My son is a HS junior and he just dropped off of high school sports because of the huge time commitment. We fully supported his decision. He started his own business and wants to work and make money (he’s doing very well). He feels more secure earning money now to pay for college and working through college and not carry the financial anxiety that seems so prevalent with college decisions. He is also realistic with schools he wants to attend and researching their programs carefully (and costs) and making informed decisions. His work ethic and drive will get him further in life than an elite college degree, this I know.

  59. Donna October 24, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

    “Jake, an apparently intelligent and hard-working person, was 17 early in the 11th grade. To me that is old”

    That is routine for fall babies. My October-born daughter will also be 17 early in the 11th grade. The birthday cut-off for school enrollment in my state has not changed since I was a child so this was common for fall babies in the 70s and 80s as well.

  60. SKL October 24, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    Unemployment in the USA is pretty darn low, and the lifestyle expectations of even the working class are objectively pretty darn high, and likely to stay that way unless WWIII happens. (And if WWIII happens, what is the point of worrying?)

    When I was a child in a working-class home (my parents were both high school dropouts and my dad could not read), my mom had a saying – “crying with a loaf of bread under his arm.” Nowadays this comment would spark all sorts of questions – is it organic bread – what about vegetables – you do realize this is why poor people are sick and obese! Most of us are so far removed from actual lack.

    My suggestion is to teach kids how to share. If they can share a home and basic amenities with others, they can have a pretty decent life even on a working class income. And then, again, the rest is gravy.

    PS as for student loans – I know all about those, I graduated with $85K of them decades ago. I have a strong feeling that the education bubble is going to burst soon, one way or another. There is no reason people need to pay six figures for a basic college education. The internet and smart people’s ideas will chip away at that. If I’m wrong, well there will still be food to eat, for people willing to work hard.

  61. Theresa Hall October 24, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

    Well how many people want hang with someone who growls at them. This counselor is a very silly person. If they had been excluding because of some silly rumor that might be different. I read of mom who help at a school and another mom decided to destroy her life by framing for drugs. The parents noticed the cops and their kids didn’t know what to think about it but chose to exclude the victim’s daughter because of the rumors about the drugs.

  62. Donna October 24, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    “If there is some actual psychological benefit to equine therapy, what is it? Serious question. ”

    While other animals are sometimes used for animal therapy, horses are most common for a few different reasons. First, horses mirror human emotion. If you are calm, a horse will be calm. If you are agitated, the horse will be agitated. If you are anxious, the horse will be anxious. The patient can clearly see the reaction their current state of mind has on the horse. Second, horses and humans tend to behave similarly when it comes to responsive social behavior, so the therapist can easily draw parallels between the patient’s behavior and the horse’s. Third, horses tend to be easy to form to bond with. Fourth, they are pretty imposing animals to gain a mastery over which helps with self-confidence and overcoming fears in ways that dogs or cats would not.

  63. Donna October 24, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

    Keep in mind also that equine therapy is not just going out into a field and riding a horse. It involves an actual therapist. The horse and horse care are just the vehicle through which discussions are had. It is nothing like rising lessons.

  64. Dienne October 24, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

    “I know that some do exist, but all of the recent graduates I know in the past few years have decent jobs and are currently looking for first homes to buy.”

    I’m sorry, I know I get in trouble around here for being snide, but when people take their own experience and apply it as a general rule, in the face of actual statistics, then I find it hard not to get snide. The fact is that student debt is at an all time high. The fact is also that it is much harder for college graduates to find professional work in their fields than it was a generation ago. While all the official indicators say that the 2008 recession is over, it’s really not for the majority of people. Sure, “the economy” is doing fine, if you only care about Wall Street standards (bankers are quite happy these days). But there is widespread un- and underemployment that is not represented in official figures. People with college and advanced degrees working at Walmart, for instance, or people who have been unemployed so long they are no longer counted as unemployed. The fact is that economic stability is a much greater concern for today’s young people than it was a generation or more ago. Just because things might look rosy in your neck of the woods does not mean things are rosy all over.

  65. lollipoplover October 24, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

    DIenne, you said:

    “…when people take their own experience and apply it as a general rule, in the face of actual statistics, then I find it hard not to get snide.”

    “The unemployment rate in January 2017 was 4.8 percent, little changed from the rates in December 2016 or January 2016. Among people age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or more education, the unemployment rate was 2.5 percent in January 2017, the same as a year earlier.”
    ~United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

    I don’t think my experiences are too far off from the actual statistics. 2.5% unemployment doesn’t sound *grim no matter where you live* to me. I live outside of Philly, and most of the college grads came from state schools like Temple or PSU and have very high employment rates for their graduates and most got financial aid to attend. At 25, they have more free money to spend on avocado toast than I do with 3 kids, too many pets, and home expenses with bills, bills, bills and not much left over for good guacamole.

    I disagree that it is all doom and gloom for college graduates, as you are asserting. If they are working as a cashier at Walmart and have a bachelor’s degree, something didn’t click for them in college.That is a waste of money and education. But even Walmart pays it’s top attorneys $400,000 a year to fight the many lawsuits they face.

  66. Stay outraged October 24, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    Fear of failure and not being able to keep up with the Kardashians.

    Over-protected and coddled millennials were told by their parents that they are unique, special and could grow up to become anything they wanted.

  67. Donna October 24, 2017 at 10:47 pm #

    Being unemployed and being employed, but underemployed are two very different things. A person with a bachelor’s degree flipping burgers at McDs is considered employed for both Department of Labor and school employment statistics.

    I live in a college town for the major state university and there are plenty of people here with college degrees flipping burgers and tending bar. Some out of choice but many because they have nothing else. And this screws up the economy for everyone. Jobs flipping burgers and tending bar that would have gone to high school graduates and high school students are now being taken by people with bachelor’s degrees and those high school grads and high school students are stuck taking jobs that previously went to people without high school diplomas and people without diplomas can’t find work at all.

    A major issue is that simply having a college degree – any major – used to be a launching pad to a decent job. While you have always needed a medical degree to be a doctor or a pharmacy degree to be a pharmacist or a law degree to be a lawyer, there were many good jobs that looked more widely for candidates, and you didn’t necessarily need a specific degree for many jobs. I’ve known people with history and anthropology degrees who are in the upper levels of business for example. Not so much today. But, yet, people have continued to major in what interests them rather than what will get them a job, resulting in many working at Starbucks after graduation and having to go to grad school to get a marketable degree. It is the reason that I tell my kid often that college is about getting the education that is needed to build a career, not spending a lot of money to indulge in your unmarketable pleasures. A degree as a radiology technician from a local tech school is going to carry you further in life than a degree in philosophy from Harvard.

    Further, this country has completely wiped out the opportunities that existed to make a decent life without going to college unless you’re extraordinary. The factory and manufacturing jobs that built the working and middle classes in the US are largely gone. Two out of three of my grandfathers (two bio and one step) didn’t even attend high school and yet both eventually ran their own very successful businesses. Try to get a loan to open a business with a 5th or 8th grade education today.

    That said, I think all the gloom and doom about anxiety is not material. The stressors are different today than they were in the past, but stress was still very prevalent back in the day. Teenagers and young adults have always felt intense pressure to launch and find their way in the world – often more pressure at a younger age since starting a family at a young age was the norm in previous generations. What they didn’t get is the pat on the back for wallowing in that pressure that seems so prevalent today. Groups of teens and young adults didn’t sit around analyzing how stressed they were and building each other up in their misery. Teens and young adults weren’t told that it is unusual to be stressed about the future and there must be something wrong with them. I sometimes think society today is like some mental health Oprah show. Instead of “You get a car. You get a car. Everyone gets a car,” it is “You have a mental illness. You have a mental illness. We all have mental illnesses.”

  68. Donald October 24, 2017 at 10:50 pm #

    Some of the rises of anxieties are due to the rising crime rate. Attempted child abductions to be sold as sex slaves has increased about 5,000 times in the last 20 years.

  69. SKL October 24, 2017 at 11:28 pm #

    I do know some people who did not let their kids take on any non-academic responsibilities because they wanted them to “concentrate on their education.” Well the one who comes to mind just graduated with a bachelor’s that took her 7 years to complete in a touchy-feely field, a pile of debt, and an internship as her entire work experience. I do believe she’ll do fine in the long run, but it’s going to be a learning curve, one that would be more appropriate for a younger person. But whatever – as long as she has family support and a good attitude, she won’t starve. Who ever said life was going to be easy?

  70. Jp Merzetti October 25, 2017 at 12:17 am #

    Kids are hammered now.
    A while back I watched the documentary, America’s war on Children.
    Pretty disturbing.
    I could probably churn out a long list of a thousand items just off the top of my head…
    but I’ll be brief.

    My constant gut reaction: I’m overjoyed that I got to grow up when I did.
    Reality was soft back then (by comparison.)
    Unreality was remarkably benign.

    Perhaps kids today are the canaries in the coal mine.

    But I ask myself too….did my elders “protect” me from the Big Bad world? Did they need to?
    Do we now protect kids from the truly fearful…..or just from our own fears?
    And our most modern 21st Century demons are all of our own creation.
    And that to me is germane to issue.
    Any kid knows that they’re just a kid – it is not their business to solve the world’s problems.
    That’s our adult job (as best as we can do it.)

    I’ll end with this.
    If I were the 10 year-old now that I was quite some time ago….I’d be pretty stressed looking ahead at the ever-speeding treadmill I’m supposed to run just to stand still.
    Personally, the most responsible thing I can do as an adult is concern myself with what I believe my grandchildren and great grandchildren will face.
    Which sometimes overwhelms me.
    I can’t (or don’t want to) imagine how it will overwhelm them.

  71. test October 25, 2017 at 1:28 am #

    @Donna When I last time looked at college statistics, students largely followed the market and what sounded practical. Bulk went to accounting, business and similar majors. Popularity of computer science went very up etc.

    Also the least practical degrees were most popular at elite schools where most connected rich students go – meaning they really have a lot more opportunities regardless of degree.

    It is hard to predict market and sometimes people get it wrong, business degree is not as good as it sounds. But in bulk, they don’t make as stupid decisions as we like to believe.

  72. Donald October 25, 2017 at 2:05 am #

    “If I were the 10 year-old now that I was quite some time ago….I’d be pretty stressed looking ahead at the ever-speeding treadmill I’m supposed to run just to stand still.”

    I’m with you. This has me scares to the point that I’m not sure if I want grandchildren. I have none. I absolutely adore kids. I love to hold babies. However, I’m not sure if I want grandchildren.

    “What they didn’t get is the pat on the back for wallowing in that pressure that seems so prevalent today. Groups of teens and young adults didn’t sit around analyzing how stressed they were and building each other up in their misery. Teens and young adults weren’t told that it is unusual to be stressed about the future and there must be something wrong with them.”

    Very well put!

  73. Donna October 25, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    “When I last time looked at college statistics, students largely followed the market and what sounded practical. Bulk went to accounting, business and similar majors. Popularity of computer science went very up etc.”

    I live about two miles from a college campus and a block away from the medical school for one of the largest colleges (based on student enrollment) in the country. While it is the top school in the state, it is no where near Ivy League. The college is the largest local employer and the vast majority of the people I interact with on a day-to-day basis outside of clients are tied to the university as either an employee or a student. 50% of the parents of my child’s classmates work or study there. I also interact with many of the law students, 99% of which tell me they are in law school because they didn’t know what else to do with their [fill in the blank of some humanities] degree rather than having any knowledge of or desire to practice law.

    I assure you that there are far more than the country can employ in related fields of history, art history, English, sociology and anthropology majors being graduated from that campus every year. While business and science degrees have increased since my days there, we still graduated more humanities majors than business majors in 2016. Business is the largest SINGLE classification (because it is a single school), but humanities are broken down into a bunch of little schools and classifications that, when added together, top business. Heck, we graduated more history majors than anything related to computers last year. We graduated more journalism majors that biology and biomedical majors. More English majors than engineering majors. Almost as many visual and performing arts majors as majors in various healthcare professions.

    Most of these kids don’t have daddies who can get them jobs as vice president despite their history degree. 40% of the undergrads are there on grants. What these kids do other than get into more debt going to graduate school is beyond me. And I assume that our state school is pretty reflective of most state schools around the country.

  74. SKL October 25, 2017 at 9:48 am #

    Yeah, honestly I can’t help wondering if some young adults go to college mainly to extend their childhood rather than embark on their career. Then when it catches up to them, it’s never their fault.

  75. Warren October 25, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

    Anxiety hasn’t spiked. Same as many other things we have expanded the meaning to encompass so much that now if one is not happy all the time then they have a problem.
    Society has got to stop looking for problems. In today’s world you are in the minority if you are not suffering from something.

  76. lollipoplover October 25, 2017 at 2:50 pm #



    Here’s some insight into majors/salaries etc.
    I majored in marketing in college and now work in HIT (healthcare it) which didn’t even exist when I was in college. Who knows what my kids will study, but early research at different colleges with strong work study programs and co-ops with top companies look promising. It’s not anxiety inducing but enlightening to so many cool choices in education.

  77. Diane October 25, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

    @SKL, I think a good number of kids enroll in college because the path to an alternative is unclear. What career to embark on, armed with only a high school diploma? There are technical schools, but most high schools approaches are “college or bust”.

    While the majority of liveable wage jobs do not require a skill set gained in college, most employers use education level to weed out resumes. If you get 500 applications, you will not interview even 10% of them. Whittling down the stack by tossing the ones with no college degree takes a few minutes.

  78. SKL October 25, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    I still observe that hands-on experience is more important than education for many jobs. Great if you have both, but focus the education and get some job experience at the same time. If you have to choose, take the path that gives you the experience, whether it’s an internship, trade school, apprenticeship, or just an unskilled job that gets you in the door of a promising industry.

    We still have trades that pay well. I’m betting the plumber I hire did not get his job by having a random bachelor’s degree on his resume.

    At a minimum I would recommend taking business courses alongside whatever major excites you. If you are doing what you love, you still need to make money doing it.

  79. Donald October 25, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    “If you get 500 applications, you will not interview even 10% of them. Whittling down the stack by tossing the ones with no college degree takes a few minutes.”

    Actually, it takes only seconds. Job applicants are searched by keywords by the computer. Most resumes are not even read be people unless they make the short list that results from the outcome of this computer program that works like a Google search.

    Face to face networking is the most effective way to find a job by far. Networking takes people skills. If a person knows self-control, self-regulation, and how to get along with others, they are better equipped for networking. Unfortunately, many parents and schools focus so heavily on academics and controlled ‘play’ such as the soccer league that they deem anything else such as unorganized play as a waste of time. Therefore children miss out on developing the skills needed most in finding employment. They can become socially awkward. They have little chance of finding a job through networking.

  80. Donna October 25, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    “I still observe that hands-on experience is more important than education for many jobs.”

    Hands-on experience is more practical for many jobs, however, many of those jobs will still require a college education.

  81. Joseph Magil October 26, 2017 at 1:38 am #

    The unemployment statistics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are lies. Compare the statistics published by John Williams on his website Shadow Government Statistics. Today’s youth have no reason to believe that they will obtain secure or adequately remunerative employment upon graduation from high school or college. I see more and more cars with Uber stickers on the windshield.

  82. JTW October 26, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    “Jobs flipping burgers and tending bar that would have gone to high school graduates and high school students are now being taken by people with bachelor’s degrees ”

    Not here. Try getting a job flipping burgers with anything more than a high school diploma (and tbh it’s hard even with that) and you’re not even getting invited for an interview because you’re not going to be a “loyal employee” as the company knows you’re gone the moment a better opportunity comes along.
    Franchises will also not want you because you’ve the mind to be able to replace the lower and middle managers, who’re the ones making the decisions on who to employ.

    As a result a LOT of people with degrees end up unemployed for prolonged periods, get pushed by the government into starting their own company so they no longer show up on the unemployed statistics, and then go bankrupt and end up on social security, just another statistic.

  83. SKL October 26, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

    Well this sounds like another example of “things aren’t like they used to be.”

    I don’t remember a time when jobs were handed to young people just because they breathed in and out. OK maybe when there were hundreds of thousands of working-age men at war. Otherwise no.

    Yes you have to work and wait to get a job. You will probably have to take something that doesn’t seem perfect and the learning curve will be unpleasant. This is not new. Also unemployment of not-so-young people is not new either. And we should stop telling young people that this is some horror that their elders did not have to tackle and overcome.

    My senior high school year was 1982-83, when unemployment was peaking at the highest rates since the Great Depression. From the time I was 4 until I was 32, the unemployment rate was continuously higher than it is now. So no, things are not desperate compared to when we were launching.

  84. lollipoplover October 26, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

    “Today’s youth have no reason to believe that they will obtain secure or adequately remunerative employment upon graduation from high school or college.”

    We wonder why teens are anxious when you make definitive statements that are Debbie Downer pessimistic nonsense?

    With an attitude like that, no one will want to employ you. I have a 16 year-old that just bought his first car with his own money…he doesn’t have a license yet, but he will also pay his insurance. In addition to high school classes, he started his own business (advertised for free on local FB page) and has hired his first employee. He makes more working a full day Saturday than his friends do working 2 weeks flipping burgers.

    He wants to go to college and expand his business. He’s always been entreprenurial and willing to work hard. He’s has a business plan. I have full confidence he will succeed and be financially secure. He’s a saver and a cheapskate (like me) and doesn’t live beyond his means.

    “Today’s Youth”
    It is not constructive to make sweeping judgments about entire generations. Each will have hard workers, slackers, and pessimists.

  85. Donald October 26, 2017 at 10:43 pm #

    The question on the table is whether or not a bachelors degree is needed to get a job flipping burgers.

    When a job is advertised, Human Resources get flooded with 500 applications. They need to cull these numbers down. They search by keywords on their computer. In seconds it scans these 500 applicants and develops a short list of them. Sometimes they cull everybody that does not have a degree. Sometimes they cull everybody that does have a degree. The trend for what type of keywords to use changes often. Over-qualified for a job is a problem because for two reasons.

    1. You’re not deemed as a loyal employee and will jump ship if you land a job that utilizes your qualifications.
    2. You may have management knowledge and therefore know when your supervisor makes a bad decision. Therefore you’re more likely to be insubordinate.

    The answer of with or without a degree is unclear. However, what is clear is networking.

    According to Forbes

    If you have spent the last eight hours posting for jobs online, you’ve wasted seven hours and 50 minutes. Job boards are the least effective method of search: less than 5% of people find their jobs that way. Even the LinkedIn jobs section is only as good as the strength of the relationships you have with decision makers on LinkedIn. Get off the job boards and start talking to people.

    The best way to land a new job is networking, which offers a success rate much higher than any job board, including LinkedIn’s (which is run by Simply Hired). Build out your networks in your target industries, and leverage connections and thought leadership to boost your visibility in the market.

    However, networking requires people skills. Stronger people skills are developed from unorganised play which is viewed as a waste of time by many.

  86. James Kabala October 29, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

    Donna, your college sounds pretty distinctive. I find it hard to believe there is any place in the country where journalism majors outnumber biology majors (not accusing you of falsehoods, just taken aback by the apparent uniqueness of this school).

    Nationwide engineering is far ahead of English and health care is more than double visual arts. It is true that history (and other social sciences) are comfortably ahead of computer science, at least for now.


  87. Donna October 30, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

    My local college is not particularly distinctive or unique. Your own statistics actually bear that out, not contradict it like you insist.

    Our local university happens to historically be very noted for its journalism program. However, the gap between journalism and biology nationwide is not that large so that is not particularly notable. The fact that this country currently graduates 90,000 journalism/communication majors PER YEAR and the numbers are still steadily INCREASING into a world where print media is pretty much dead is astounding.

    And social studies isn’t just comfortably ahead of computers. 3 times the amount of people graduate with social studies degrees than degrees involving computers. This isn’t just for now. Based on the recent rates of increase and decrease, it will be a decade or two before computers equals social studies IF they both continue to go in the same direction they are currently trending (which is a really short trend for social studies as that was increasing until just a couple years ago).

    If you add just the visual and performing arts, social studies and history and psychology majors, you have already exceeded the number of business majors without adding in all the other “soft” majors.

    If you add together all the “soft” majors, more people graduate with a “soft” degree than graduate with degrees in business, healthcare, engineering and computers combined.

    Heck, if you add up just the degrees that I don’t even know what job you are aiming to get with them (gender studies, general studies (WTF?), parks and recreation, multidisciplinary studies, philosophy, family and consumer sciences, etc), you exceed the number of people with engineering or computer or even healthcare degrees.

    Simply put more than half the people who go to college – based on your own statistics – graduate with a degree that does not naturally lead to large-scale related employment outside of academia.

    (As for engineering, we have one of the top-rated engineering colleges in the country a short distance away so our state university doesn’t have much of an engineering program so we may be out of the norm that way. )

  88. James Kabala October 30, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

    I guess I think of “communications” as a bit broader than “journalism.” I don’t think it is a major commonly geared toward print journalism anymore. It would be interesting to know what percentage of students who major in “communication, journalism, and related programs” are actually intending to become print journalists. If anything I think of it as a very corporate-oriented major – I believe a lot of them go into PR and grant writing and those kinds of things.

    I am not sure if it is really a matter of hard vs. soft – some of the majors you did not mention, such as education or “homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting” may not be as academically rigorous as engineering but are clearly geared toward employment. (And both have big numbers.) (And business is also rarely called a hard major, although of course many bright students do major in it.)