A Youth Risk Behavior Survey recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) illustrates just how serious the problem has become for America’s young people.
In 2021, almost three in five teenage girls felt persistent sadness. Girls are twice as likely to be depressed as boys, and one in three girls said they seriously considered suicide. This is a real crisis, and several factors are relevant.
Social media had negatively impacted mental health long before the response to COVID-19 made the problem worse. But a new, perhaps surprising factor, has emerged. It seems a teenager’s political views impact their levels of depression as well.
The study, released in December of 2022, found that liberal teens are more likely to be depressed than their conservative peers. In fact, liberal boys are more likely to be depressed than conservative girls, which suggests that political beliefs are more predictive of depression than gender.
The authors attempted to explain the depression of liberal teenagers in two ways. First, they suggest liberal teens are depressed because they live in a world dominated by conservative values. “[L]iberal adolescents may have therefore experienced alienation with a growing conservative political climate such that their mental health suffered in comparison to that of their conservative peers whose hegemonic views were flourishing.” Few conservatives would agree with the suggestion that conservative political attitudes have achieved cultural dominance.