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Teens view anxiety, depression as biggest problems in lives, study says

By Danielle Haynes

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Most American teenagers say they view anxiety and depression as a major problem in the communities where they live, a Pew study released Wednesday indicates.

The study found that 70 percent of teens view the mental health concerns as a major problem, while 26 percent believe they're a minor problem and 4 percent say they're not a problem.

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The polling organization asked 920 Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 about their concerns on eight topics. After anxiety and depression, they viewed bullying as the biggest problem in their communities, with 55 percent seeing it as a major problem, 35 percent a minor problem and 10 percent not a problem.

Other results included: drug addiction (51 percent major, 35 percent minor and 13 percent not a problem); drinking alcohol (45 percent major, 39 percent minor and 16 percent not a problem); poverty (40 percent major, 47 percent minor and 13 percent not a problem); teen pregnancy (34 percent major, 44 percent minor and 21 percent not a problem); and gangs (33 percent major, 38 percent minor and 29 percent not a problem).

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When asked about the pressures they face, 61 percent say they feel a lot of pressure to get good grades, 29 percent say they feel a lot of pressure to look good, 28 percent feel a lot of pressure to fit in socially, 21 percent feel a lot of pressure to be good in extracurricular activities and sports, 6 percent feel a lot of pressure to drink alcohol and 4 percent feel a lot of pressure to use drugs.

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The Pew findings on anxiety and depression comes a month after a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that among children aged 11 to 17, 8 percent said they had contemplated suicide and half of their parents were aware of it.

Meanwhile, just over 15 percent of both boys and girls said they'd thought about death often. Parents were unaware about three-quarters of the time, according to the report.

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Depression is a major risk factor for suicide -- and up to 20 percent of teenagers suffer depression at some point, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Earlier this year, the AAP issued updated guidelines urging pediatricians to routinely screen adolescents aged 12 and older for depression, using standard questionnaires during annual checkups.

The Pew study was conducted between Sept. 17 and Nov. 25 and had a margin of error of 4.8 percent.

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