Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

The Hidden Health Issue: Emotional Well-Being

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The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health has just released the results from the second annual Bay Annual Parent Poll, a telephone survey of nearly 1,800 parents from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties in California.

For a second year in a row, Bay Area parents have put their children's emotional health at the top of their worry list, highlighting a health risk not usually discussed. Parents across economic, ethnic, and geographic lines said that they worried about stress, depression, weight, and the impact of family stress on their kids.

Stress and Depression

Two-thirds of the parents of teenagers said their child experiences stress from schoolwork, pressure to excel in school, divorce, and family finances. In addition, 25% of parents were concerned their child might be depressed. Comparatively, less than 10% of parents of teens were worried about their children smoking cigarettes, using alcohol, smoking marijuana, or engaging in sexual activity.

Other Results
Family Time: More than 25% of parents said they do not spend enough time together as a family.
Media: More than 45% of parents said that the media had a negative effect on their teens.

It is clear from the results of this survey that parents of older teens are more worried about their emotional health and I would guess that part of this finding reflects parents not feeling "connected" to their teens. We know that stress and depression are predictors for teens participating in many unhealthy behaviors, including drinking, smoking, and early sexual involvement.

Not only do these results call for schools and health care to regularly assess the emotional well-being of teens, it is a wake-up call for parents to "engage" with both the health care and educational systems to advocate for changes to reduce the stress our youth are feeling.

You can find additional information and more findings at http://kidsdata.org/parentpoll.

Photo credit: The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health and the Survey Policy and Research Institute at San Jose State University.

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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