Health: one French teenager in four is affected by a generalized anxiety disorder

On the occasion of the International Children's Rights Day, Notre avenir à tous, an impact company founded by Hélène Roques, reveals the results of its fifth survey, carried out by Ipsos, since 2012, to fight against the malaise of youth. A survey of 1,000 French young people aged 11 to 15, representative of the French population, has been entrusted to Ipsos, in October 2021, with the support of the Innovation-Health Chair of Essec and the Jean-Jaurès Foundation.

The author(s)

  • Etienne Mercier Public Affairs, France
  • Amandine Lama Public Affairs, France
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Teenage discomfort, a serious, global and underestimated phenomenon

A very worrying level of anxiety and prevalence of depression

1 in 4 teenagers is affected by a generalized anxiety disorder (25%), an evaluation carried out by having them take the GAD7 (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7) test.

This disorder affects both boys (24%) and girls (27%), is found in all age groups, including 11-12 year olds (29%), 13-14 year olds (23%) and 15 year olds (23%), and affects all socio-professional categories equally.

An edifying level of depression

42% of teenagers are affected by more or less serious depressive symptoms. Nearly 1 in 10 experience moderately severe or severe depression (9%).

Nearly 1 in 5 teenager s report having had dark thoughts and thoughts of death in the 'last two weeks' (18%).

1 in 10 teenagers say they have "thought about killing themselves" in the past two weeks (10%).

Young people underestimate their situation

The teenagers interviewed do not really express their discomfort

52% of the teenagers surveyed feel that they are "very well".

Only 7% of teenagers say they are not doing well (while 25% are affected by a generalized anxiety disorder).

Among those who are most unwell, i.e. teenagers who require medical attention on the basis of their GAD scores, only 19% say they are unwell.

School is the place where unhappiness is expressed

1 in 3 students spontaneously declare that the way they feel at the moment has a negative impact on their school results (31%), their ability to concentrate in class (35%) and their interest in lessons (34%).

64% of teenagers express grade anxiety, with those with anxiety or depression particularly affected.

Young anxious teenagers who are not followed up

They do not seek help enough to meet their needs

71% of teenagers with a depression-like disorder (adapted PH9 questionnaire) have not told anyone about it.

44% of teenagers with an anxiety disorder requiring a psychiatric assessment did not talk to a doctor or health professional about their problems.

Problems that for some teenagers become "chronic”

Teenagers who report problems consider that they have been experiencing them for an average of 12.1 months.

Days invaded by screens

Extremely high levels of screen time

Over a whole day, they say they spend an average of 2 hours 54 minutes on their smartphone, 1 hour 48 minutes on a computer, tablet or console and 2 hours watching television.

The cumulative use of smartphones, tablets, computers and games consoles "over the last 24 hours" by these teenagers could be an average of 6 hours 42 minutes if we add up all their different uses.

At a fragile age, news feed a feeling of "anger and incomprehension”

Faced with the news, teenagers declare an anxiety linked to current events.

  • Because it is bad news (64%)
  • Because there is too much of it (34%)
  • Because they don't understand it (31%)
  • Because they don't know if the information they’re provided with is true or false (28%)

The referents of teenagers for "telling the truth about the news" are first and foremost their parents.

81% of teenagers ranked parents first for "telling the truth about the news".

Far ahead of teachers (4%), scientists (6%) and bloggers (3%).

Possible solutions to help teenagers exposed to their anxiety

To improve treatment, the question of confidential consultation was raised.

Nearly 1 in 4 young people would like to be able to talk to a psychologist about their problems without their parents being informed.

Almost 1 in 3 young people would like to be able to talk to a psychologist about their problems without their teachers being informed.

To promote prevention, reduce isolation, offer dedicated physical places to talk about their concerns.

Many said they could go to a place dedicated to teenagers to talk with other young people and professionals specialising in adolescence about subjects that concern them, such as their health (52%), problems of harassment and violence (51%), current affairs (51%), but also relationships (49%), contraception and sexuality (40%) or drug or alcohol consumption (30%).

Sample surveyed by Internet via the Ipsos Access Panel Online. National representative sample of 1,000 young people aged 11 to 15, based on the quota method. From 15 to 22 October 2021.

Notre avenir à tous Hélène Roques plans to produce a next study in 2022 on the same sample, in France and in two other European countries.
To contact her: [email protected]

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The author(s)

  • Etienne Mercier Public Affairs, France
  • Amandine Lama Public Affairs, France

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