Young people are more anxious than ever – and they don’t even know it

Do you have an anxious teen?
Do you have an anxious teen?

A new Kaspersky Lab report recently revealed that Generation Z, or young people aged 13 to 23, are the most anxious group to date with their world dominated by social media and a constant desire to be perfect. Most feelings of anxiety had much to do with appearance, especially online.

“It is quite common for Generation Z to create a more manufactured, or perfect, perception of how they look. Most young people also spend up to half an hour editing their images or videos ahead of posting them on social media platforms, in order to create a flawless image,” the Kaspersky study revealed.

Almost double the amount of girls felt anxious compared to boys and even admitted to changing their eating habits, which included refraining from eating, in order to fit a particular body type. This had much to do with the fact that young girls are constantly bombarded with fitstagram posts or influencers with tiny waists and millions of followers.

Further, young girls also admitted feeling so overwhelmed that they often find themselves skipping social events as a result of their intense social anxiety.

The majority of young people don’t know what to do when they’re feeling anxious, and even worse, they don’t seek help. So it’s important to be able to identify when someone is anxious, help them to identify it themselves, help where we can and be mindful of how we approach and deal with the situation.

Identifying the signs

SADAG recently reported that in South Africa, 17.6% of teens had attempted death by suicide and 31.5% of these attempts required medical treatment. Further, 1 in 4 university students have been diagnosed with depression. According to the World Health Organisation, half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age, but most cases go undetected and untreated.

Being able to identify signs of anxiety and depression is important. According to Health24, when anxiety starts bordering on depression it often looks like this in the form of someone you love:

  • They’ll have a depressed or irritable mood
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in things they usually enjoy
  • Changes in their appetite as well as weight loss
  • Slowing or speeding up of physical activity
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling sick often
  • Inability to concentrate and lack of productivity
  • Insomnia or the complete opposite – you’ll find them wanting to sleep all the time and still feeling overly exhausted

How to approach the situation and get help

When attempting to help someone with anxiety, you should try your best to be thoughtful and caring. Saying things like, “We need to talk” can make someone all the more anxious, while belittling the situation by saying “Calm down”, “You’re fine”, “It’s not such a big deal” and “You’re just imagining things” can be patronising and condescending.

Listen to what they have to say, be sympathetic and avoid the get-over-it attitude. Tell them you’ll be there with them and you'll help them through, and then mention the very many services you can contact – together.

For support, contact the following organisations, most of which have 24-hour helplines:

Have you tried to tackle this topic with your kids? How did you do it? Tell us by emailing to emailing to and we may publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.

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