In 2019, The Pew Research Center surveyed that 70% of teenagers say that anxiety and depression are a major problem among peers in their community. “I think that [school and increased stress] is a piece of [the problem],” says Mrs. Meaghan Roy, the LHS Health teacher. “The expectations of our culture, as far as academic achievement, and the fact that it gets more difficult to get into college has definitely increased stress levels among teenagers today.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, teenagers are now experiencing the most stress of any generation in the last 100 years. While some students point to schools as a source of stress, there seems to be another greater factor. Ms. MaryEllen Dillon, a Psychology teacher at LHS says, “I don’t see it as being school-related so much as I see it being social media related. I think there’s a lot more pressure on kids coming from that.” Mrs. Mary AnnWesolowski, an LHS Social worker says, “well I think there’s a lot of academic pressure to perform well and to go to a ‘good school. I [also] think that kids get a lot of homework.” On the other hand, Mr. Jamie Dibbern, the LHS Science department chair, doesn’t think the school curriculum has significantly changed, he says, “It’s always been a very rigorous high school.” Mrs. Dillon says, “kids haven’t had all of the extra sort of multi-sensory aids that they have today available to them before. So back in ‘93, you didn’t have any of that stuff. So I would say I don’t see it as being school-related so much as I see it being social media related.” LHS Junior Wesley Breed, an all honors student, says, “so far, the homework load hasn’t been too overwhelming. People that are staying up so late either doing work, going on their phone, watching videos, or other unnecessary things. They really need to rethink what’s going on and get to sleep earlier.” He adds, “I think getting enough sleep at night is very important for performance in school and after school.” Indeed, Pew research found that the average teenager in the United States clocked roughly around 7.4 hours of screen time a day. According to studies by the American Psychological Association, giving constant attention to your phone may cause substantial increases in both stress and anxiety. And, according to LHS social worker Mrs.Wesolowski, “increased stomach aches, headaches, and fatigue.” Clinical Psychological Science found that teenagers who spent more than five hours online daily were also 71% more likely than those who spent 1 hour or less to have at least one suicide factor. As Mrs. Roy puts it, “technology has played such a big role in people seeing what other people are doing and feeling they need to measure up –to achieve the same things instead of looking at their own reality of what makes them happy. This technology increases the stress levels. It’s just a constant bombardment of negative information, all the time.”
Mr. Dibbern suggests stress today isn’t because of the curriculum, but rather because “the students don’t know how to handle [stress]. They’re not prepared to handle the different stresses in life. The same stresses are always there; worrying about getting into college, worrying about passing, worrying about your home life. What I do see is students not being able to handle it.” LHS English department chair Mr. Mark Cormier says “stress for teenagers today are a lot of the same causes of stress for teenagers when I was [a teenager]. Teenagers are becoming more social, it demands a lot of their time.”
For students who do experience stress, it seems to be a mix of both bad time management, lack of sleep, social media, and schoolwork. “I just have consistent stress throughout my life.” says Bella Costello, a junior at LHS. “I’d say the root of the problem is probably my phone. I spend about 6 hours on my phone everyday. If I utilized that time more wisely I wouldn’t be stressing out about things.” Nishant D’Souza, a senior at LHS, says, “I would say [my stress is mostly caused by] keeping up with work, I don’t have much social anxiety or anything like that. It’s mostly schoolwork. I take all honors, and handling all the stress has become a part of [the classes].” “For me, stress has been relatively low. I think when I’m most stressed is the nights before a test usually. So far, the homework load hasn’t been too overwhelming, normally I don’t feel too stressed out at all,” says Wesley.
To handle the stress, Mrs. Roy lists a few solutions, “being physically active, getting enough sleep, talking to someone about it instead of just taking matters into your own hands [all help students cope with stress.]” According to Mrs. Dillon, reflecting on your day and asking yourself what you can do better tomorrow will also help. There’s no one way to fix your stress completely. Rather, try to find a balance, and try not to juggle with taking all honors. Do what aligns best with what you want to be in life, manage your time, regulate phone usage, and this way you will be relieved of negative stress.