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Why no mention that unhappiness (and actual depression and anxiety) are actually higher among young people who align with liberal politics?

Are these left-leaning kids simply more sensitive and aware? Or have they been conditioned by a world view that inflates catastrophism and considers dysfunctional victimhood a virtue? And more broadly, how much of the unhappy factor among all young people (despite living in the best times ever) is the result of deliberate conditioning?

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Yes, it's hard to ignore deliberate conditioning...e.g. climate alarmism, oppression, systemic racism, victim hood, colonialism, anti-white culture..just to name a few.

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I would add mental health services with the question, do mental health programs actually increase, are a direct causal factor, in the reported decrease in mental health?

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I think it's a mistake to turn the discussion political. The negative impacts of BigTech and social media are bigger than leftwing or rightwing politics, in fact social media's polarizing effect is causing different groups to turn against each other, leading people to blame the left, blame Trump, etc. Let's just work towards fixing the underlying systems that are causing this polarization

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I agree - the data show younger groups are less happy in many countries including those countries who don't have the sort of education you mention.

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My goal is not political polarization. But I do want to suggest that conditioning does strongly affect group and individual attitudes and emotions, and might lead to mental distress. My point about documented higher depression and anxiety among young people on the left is that it may (probably) results from embracing a more negative and fatalistic world view. Those who promote that view might indeed have biased political purpose, but the impact on mental health looks significant.

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I see your point but would argue that it's not a left-wing issue. It's more a matter of young people being bombarded with all kinds of information and disinformation on social media, that is turning both left-wing and right-wing to political extremes and against each other.

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> Why no mention that unhappiness (and actual depression and anxiety) are actually higher among young people who align with liberal politics?

He mentioned that about a year ago, and went into some hypotheses as to why: https://www.afterbabel.com/p/mental-health-liberal-girls

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Indeed he did. But I think it deserved a mention in today's piece.

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It may have been worth a mention today. However ,based on the curves of these graphs, the change must actually be presenting itself across the entire political spectrum. If young conservatives still have the same mental health now as they did decades ago, the overall curve would not be as pronounced. I suspect that if you created two separate curves for those on the left and the right, the curves would both follow the same trajectory but perhaps be less steep for conservatives.

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By “liberal” I take it that you mean the definition in American public discourse, which for reasons which escape me is out of step with the definition across the rest of the world, not to mention the academic meaning(s).

In any event, the data is for whole populations. I suspect that at root is the ongoing trend to ever greater social atomization — the whole Thatcherite program typified by “there is no such thing as society” and “there is no alternative” is simply inimical to human flourishing by any measure you wish to use, which is frankly unsurprising given human biology and anthropology.

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Yes..good thoughts..

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Yet, teen suicide rose much faster to much higher levels among both sexes and each race from 2010 to 2022 in conservative, Republican areas of the U.S. than in liberal Democratic areas. In cities in California and New York, there are very low levels and barely any increase at all. How do we explain that?

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I’m not one of the researchers who argues that teenagers aren't unhappier today. But I am for ending our denial as to why and facing the realities they face, as Dr. Twenge’s latest substack post suggests.

It doesn’t matter what grownups tell surveys about how “happy” we are. The facts across the Western world vigorously show the grownup crisis is far worse – and a major cause of – teenagers’ understandable unhappiness. It’s long past time we stopped denying this.

For example, from 2010 to 2021, Americans ages 30-59 (the ages of parents, relatives, household adults, teachers, coaches, etc.) suffered a skyrocketing epidemic of 800,000 suicides and fatal overdoses, plus 13 million ER self-harm and poisoning cases (nearly all o.d.’s) – up 180% in 11 years, CDC figures show.

That’s equal to the entire middle-aged populations of Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan suffering serious drug casualties during the same decade teens say they got more depressed and anxious.

We didn’t like that reality millions of teens live with, so we ignored it and pretend the grownups are just fine. We don’t even ask teens if grownups’ soaring self-destruction makes them more depressed.

The 2021 CDC survey showed that while teens who are online report more depression, they also report less self-harm, fewer attempted suicides, and fewer major risks. We like the “more depression” finding and endlessly highlight it. We didn’t like the “less self-harm,” “fewer suicide attempts,” and “fewer risks,” so we ignored those answers.

That same CDC survey associated violent and/or emotional abuse by parents and household adults with vastly more teenage (especially girls’ and LBGTQs’) depression, suicide attempts, self-harm, and other major risks than associated with any other factor, including screen time. We didn’t like teens’ answers on the abuse issue, so we ignored them.

Depressed teen girls, in particular, report being online more, and also being abused by parents/adults more. Analysis decisively shows that being parentally-abused is hugely more important. We didn’t like what girls said. So, we ignored the abuse result and just blame being online.

Teens are 3.5 times more likely to be abused by parents and grownups than online or at school. We didn’t like that answer, so we ignored it. Teens abused by parents at home are also much more likely to be cyberbullied and bullied at school. We didn’t like that connection, so we ignored it and just blamed bullying on peers.

The Pew Research survey found teens several times more likely to rate their personal online experiences as positive, inclusive, connective, and helpful in dealing with “tough times,” rather than negative. We didn’t like that result, so we ignored it.

Large majorities of teens also told Pew that social media is neither good nor bad. Repeated reviews of survey and experimental studies confirmed that social media are associated with very low and contradictory effects on teens. We didn’t like those results, so we dismissed them.

It’s inconvenient and perhaps embarrassing to admit that teen girls have extraordinarily low suicide and overdose rates compared to us mature grownup women and (especially) men. So, we ignore that reality.

Instead of asking better questions and paying attention to what teens say, we pick and choose only those time periods, measures, and risk factors that we grownups find comfortable to face. Teenagers in real-life homes and communities enjoy no such pick-and-choose luxury.

If we truly want to understand young people’s unhappiness – and I’m not sure we do – then let’s start asking the right questions and taking teens’ answers seriously. It would be a refreshing change.

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Could it still be U shaped in terms of average trajectory of happiness over life? It’s just that young adults now start their U lower? Not a pleasant thought, admittedly.

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I was wondering this as well…seems that some unpleasant realities that most of us older generations didn’t face until we were closer to mid-life, are now exposed to young people through the internet. So they aren’t having the sheltered “happy” ignorance-is-bliss youth that we had.

There is a such thing as too much information, after all…

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Group Daycare for babies is a HUGE social change from dyadic care (which all primates naturally receive and need). This began in the USA in 1985 and rose to about 1/3 of babies by the 1990's. Dr James W Prescott studied social wellbeing and early life practices and found *carrying* to be a key practice of societies with the most adult wellbeing (mercy to enemy, low suicide, etc)... & it also implies one on one care. 0-3 is a key rapid brain growth period when the connections between regions of the brain are formed and skills like self regulation, internal locus of control, sense of self are developed... or not. Kids with these lacks will be even more drawn to electronic distraction & dopamine.

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Excellent work. I have two remarks.

A possible bias is an increased awareness of one’s own feelings, by the younger generation. Taking myself as an example, I am 49 and I can say 35 years ago I barely knew the words for describing feelings like depression, anxiety etc.

The second point is that when I was a teenager surely there was no way a sense of belonging would emerge from saying how bad I felt. The safer position was not to admit any weakness. And adolescents hunger for belonging. Today, sharing a psychological condition is a safe way to being socially accepted.

These are two sources of bias you should control for. I look forward to seeing the results.

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I think there are a number of factors that play into this, not the least of which being the massive amounts of undisclosed or unreported physical, sexual and emotional abuse (of both sexes, but is more prevalent in females) and the rise in narcissism. With the subjects that have been taboo in the past, there is a great amount to be learned. It is a tough subject to discuss for many and a pitfall is blame that only causes a worsening overall interaction and communication curve for society in general. There are mountains of evidence coming available about the lack of information and understanding from past generations, parents who didn’t know any better, lack of knowing the consequences, how to protect (or even what protection meant), and past abuses of generations before mental health or help in general were even available. This is a subject with infinite possibilities available to help humanity thrive in ways we can’t even imagine to be possible.

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Men are satisfying themselves w/porn and contributing to the despair of young women. In addition the cost of driving a car is increasingly hard on young people. I know I do not enjoy driving and have replaced all my in town car trips w/bike trips. Not many places have transit other than a few large cities. Auto dependency and the costs are contributing to the anxiety of young people.

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I don't need statistics to know what social media does. All I need is to compare my own mental state after a week with plenty of time on social media versus a week of no social media. And I'm an old (62) curmudgeon type of the sort who is probably only slightly susceptible to ill effects of social media. I can easily imagine more sensitive young people having their mental health devastated by the non stop snarkiness, flaming, one-up-manship, liking/disliking, up/down voting, etc that passes for normal behavior on social media. I ask anyone reading this to just imagine a family that talked to each other the way people talk on social media, loudly liked or dislikes everything you said. At least with a dysfunctional family, victims sense something is wrong and csn hope for different life outside their crazy family. But social media gives the impression that there is no alternative, no escape, no hope of ever meeting decent fellow humans. The wonder is that most kids are not (yet) mentally suffering. I would have expected 90% despair rates among those spending huge amounts of time on social media, especially more vulnerable young people, who aren't comfortable yet with solitude.

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I am focused on conscience that should begin the transition from childlike to adult around puberty. Conscience should avoid evil (harm to self and others) and temptation (unreasonable risk of harm) and promote love. Zach Rausch and Jon Haidt (and the U.S. Surgeon General) have associated smartphones (early access to the adult internet library) with teen anxiety. Adults need freedom for social, sexual, family, political, religious, educational, recreational, criminal, and economic choices. Conscience matures as the external restraints on children (rewards and punishments) are internalized with deliberation and consent. Providing unsupervised internet access on top of K-12 Planned Parenthood, feminist, LGBTQ, atheist, CRT philosophy in government schools before conscience transitions in normal age appropriate ways, has had unintended consequences for family formation.

Some in education have twisted conscience for political reasons. Conscience should be developed for independence, diversity, and confidence. The full range of emotional, rational, and moral intelligence must be blended to convert mistakes into lessons and self-chosen plans for the future.

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Are you saying that the cause of youth mental health decline could be their exposure to “adult appropriate” knowledge before their own conscience and sense of personal being has matured?

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Wow. What’s happening to our youth? They are demoralized.

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I can't help but think that a great deal of the emotional turmoil among young people is also caused by the increasing rates (or perceived increases) of xenophobia, narcissism, zero-sum thinking and anger in adults. I understand that correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but the timelines of both phenomena would seem to correlate. As always, excellent analysis and opinion on the topics that were reviewed.

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Whatever other variables are at work here, let's not neglect to mention many young people now believe the American Dream of owning their own home is no longer will not be possible due to a 100% increase in housing costs from 2019. That variable alone would certainly have made me unhappy.

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Jon, Zach, and others are heroes for finally documenting that our kids are in trouble. And for proposing solutions about phones and more. Bravo. But we’re still not discussing the one primal need that all kids have. They need unconditional love, the kind of love they don’t have to earn, the kind without disappointment and anger. Parents don’t know how to give this love that confers upon their children the confidence that eliminates the need for children to seek pain relief in devices, social media, isolation, and addictions. And when children don’t feel unconditionally loved, they simply won’t follow parents who try to limit phone use or provide more independence and free play.

So what are the real solutions, simply expressed?

1. No phones or social media at all—no unobserved use of the Internet at all—for any minor child. They simply don’t need it.

2. Teach parents how to unconditionally love their children. Controlling children or enabling them is not loving them. And parents don’t have to figure out unconditional love and guidance on their own. Just go to the free and agenda-free websites RealLove.com and RealLoveParents.com. I have nothing to sell. But I do offer thirty years of intense experience with teaching parents and children all over the world. They need love, not social media or phones or indulgence or entertainment. Loving and teaching work.

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Life feels more uncertain right now. The growth potential seems twisted. AI is coming quickly and so are environmental issues. Top this with Social media and political noise and we are in a “the sky is falling” paradigm. It is no wonder. Kids are saying, what’s the point?!” And it is difficult to motivate them in healthy ways. Difficult to show a vision. Even my own creative efforts (I am 67) feel almost foolish. The future feels more unknown than solid. We grew up with a more solid future view. Our kids aren’t.

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I agree the future seems more bleak now then ever . I am 49 and i have been feeling this way now for a few years. I never felt this way i would say before 2015. Life has gone downhill really fast since then and it is accelerating

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I never had a problem holding a job. End of 1999 I got promoted to DotCom side of business and got laid off at the end of 2000 (44) then after three years I made my way back to my industry and made it to 2013 (57) as middle management and was laid off again. I had trouble finding a job and finally went to Home Depot. After two years I landed a help desk job (all that I am qualified for, apparently. And here I am as my last position before I retire and due to the previous issues I plan to work through 2027 and maybe halfway into 2028 or… TBD. I add this for context. I would say my professional lifewas fine until 2000 and has been more difficult and for less money since then.

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Agreed. This is why we all need to work together on solutions and support.

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At the family level the solution is to live slow paced lives as close to nature and community as possible. When i am out catching dragonflies with my boys, the risk of AGI super intelligence doesn't cross my mind. I am a software engineer but i am starting to live more and more like a luddite

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Totally. We need to help our kids see the opportunities that are still there. That yes, though jobs may be disappearing, the service industry is healthy and there is also “less” people (generationally speaking) for them and more seniors. That aging balance is part of the puzzle, yes?

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The good jobs are disappearing and the service industry is not for everyone. Also service jobs are stressful. Opportunity is disappearing, i am 49 years old and i can definetly see the difference , their was more opportunity just 15 years ago.

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No one hurts themselves or their own future on purpose is an important factor to keep in mind when delving into this subject.

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Not true! People all the time do things on purpose that they know will make their future worse. Either the alternative is hard (e.g quitting an addiction or swallowing pride) or we value an expected short-term benefit that we get now over the known long-term harm that we won’t have to deal with until later.

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Do you think that could be about awareness and the lack of the ability in the moment to see other options due to emotional overwhelm? 😊

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It is more empowering to choose to see ourselves as agents rather than powerless victims of circumstance. (But I have to admit I still chose to eat that extra brownie at the picnic today, and then pie. The flesh is weak.)

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lol. Agreed. I think a big part of the problem is just that not everyone is actually aware that they are choosing to eat the brownie and the pie. It’s a chicken or the egg discussion for sure. I’m not attempting to take a side. We all need to take some action towards helping our youth in general.

Former generations (on some level and not all of them) have chosen to hide and erase facts rather than face/own them. I do believe it has caused chaos and confusion. I just haven’t drilled down on the percentages and age groups at all.

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