Is anxiety rising in children and if so, why?


Child???????s Bare Feet DESCRIPTION Low section of child's bare feet against neutral background

Childhood anxiety is on the rise for a multitude of reasons

Giuseppe Di Bella/Millennium Images, UK

CHILDHOOD can be a time of great anxiety. It is when we learn how to make friends and cope when those friendships go sour, when we first feel the pressures of school work and exams, and when the difficulties of puberty kick in.

But recent research suggests that childhood anxiety is on the rise, with more children feeling anxious today than even just a few years ago. As researchers start to investigate why this might be, a complicated picture is emerging, encompassing everything from the covid-19 pandemic to social media. Thankfully, there are ways to help children to ensure the potential long-term effects are limited.

Evidence for high levels of anxiety in children comes from an analysis of 29 studies that were published between 2020 and 2021 that included 80,000 young people from around the world. It found that 20.5 per cent of children had clinically significant anxiety symptoms, with girls and older adolescents particularly affected.

Of course, 2020 and 2021 were defined by the covid-19 pandemic, when many people of all ages felt increased anxiety (see “Anxiety really has increased over the past 10 years – but why?“). However, prior to the pandemic the generally accepted prevalence figure for young people was 11.6 per cent, from a study that surveyed 37 per cent of Finnish adolescents aged 14 to 18 in 2015. Signs that anxiety diagnoses were rising in younger people even earlier come…

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