Sixty-two percent of undergraduate students in the survey reported “overwhelming anxiety,” a significant increase from 50 percent in 2011.
A separate survey from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, asks incoming college freshmen whether they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year.
In 1985, when the institute began surveying students on the issue, 18 percent said they felt overwhelmed.
By 2010, 29 percent said they did. And in 2016, the number jumped to 41 percent.
And since 2012, the Washington Post reported, the Boys Town National Hotline has seen a 12 percent spike in teens reaching out via calls, texts, chats and emails about their struggles with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“These kids are incredibly anxious and perfectionistic,” she said, but there’s “contempt and scorn for the idea that kids who have it all might be hurting ... there’s always one more activity, one more A.P. class, one more thing to do in order to get into a top college. Kids have a sense that they’re not measuring up. The pressure is relentless and getting worse.”
But helicopter parents aren’t always to blame. Many students internalize the anxiety and put the pressure on themselves, Madeline Levine, co-founder of Challenge Success, a nonprofit aimed at improving student well-being, told the Times.
Another expert, psychiatrist Stephanie Eken, said despite the cultural differences, there’s a lot of overlap among teens regarding what makes them anxious.
Eken mentions factors range from school, family conflicts, what food to eat, diseases, how they’re perceived by friends and notably in the last few years, Eken told the Times, to a rising fear about terrorism.
“They wonder about whether it’s safe to go to a movie theater,” she said.
A lack of close, meaningful relationships is also a major factor.
And social media doesn’t help, Eken said, adding that teens are always comparing themselves with their peers, which leaves them miserable.
When Times reporter Benoit Denizet-Lewis visited Mountain Valley, a nonprofit that offers teens need-based assistance for $910 a day, a college student at the facility said, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities,” he said. “Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”
But social media can also be used to “help increase connections between people,” CDC suicide expert Thomas Simon told CNN in August. “It's an opportunity to correct myths about suicide and to allow people to access prevention resources and materials.”
Still, Simon acknowledged that cyberbullying can greatly impact vulnerable youth.