Today’s teens are actively avoiding health-harming behavior compared to previous generations. According to an Iconoculture study on Gen We health and wellness practices, there has been an 11% decrease since 2005 in the number of high schoolers who consumed alcohol in the past month and a 9% decrease in the amount of high schoolers who smoked cigarettes in the past month. Interestingly, studies are finding that marijuana use among this age group is slowly increasing, although not significantly.
A study published by the University of Michigan that surveyed 45,000 students of the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades found that marijuana consumption increased very slightly. Additionally, they found the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana marginally decreased for students in grades 10 and 12.
Possible explanations of this behavior may lie in changing cultural perceptions of marijuana due to its new status of legalization in a growing number of states and public recognition of its multiple medical benefits. Stress levels among this generation, however, may more accurately answer why this increase and if use will continue to rise.
Results from the National Comorbidity Survey indicate that anxiety is now the number one mental health issue for Gen We. In fact, from 2011 to 2016 there was a 24% increase of undergraduates reporting being overwhelmed by anxiety.
Perhaps due to their millennial and, younger Gen X parents concern for health, 45% of Gen We report feeling highly stressed about their health and that of their family members as well (CEB Iconoculture Gen We Survey, 2017). However, due to rising levels of stress across all generations, it is relatively unsurprising that America’s tech-absorbed youth is reflecting the sentiment. Most Americans foresee money (62%), the economy (58%), personal health concerns (58%) and family health complications (57%) as significant stressors in the coming years (American Psychological Association, 2017).
University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
American Psychological Association