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Declining teens the hidden story in aging of America
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The proportion of teens is at its smallest point in American history, with greater decline coming. And that poses some interesting demographic challenges. - photo by Lois M. Collins
The proportion of teens is at its smallest point in American history, with greater decline coming. And that poses some interesting demographic challenges, according to Philip Bump, who writes of the shift on The Fix blog in the Washington Post.

"Teen death" is how a colleague responded when he showed her the numbers.

Writes Bump, "That's a bit strong, but the point is an interesting one: By 2050, teens (does that need a hashtag?) will make up a small percentage of the population. But then I looked at the long-term trend and discovered something alarming: There are currently fewer #teens as a percentage of all Americans than at any point on record. And it will keep dropping."

The percentage of Americans who are teens is in decline because an increasing portion of Americans are older and the overall population keeps growing.

Bump does note "teen pockets" in the West, "thanks to high birthrates among Mormons and Hispanics."

The teen years are challenging from many vantage points, from hormones to education to simply finding a job and launching into adulthood.

"American teenagers are now the most stressed-out age group in the U.S., according to the American Psychological Association's 2013 Stress In America survey. While adults rate their stress at a 5.1 on a 10-point scale, teens rate their stress levels at 5.8," wrote Huffington Post's Carolyn Gregoire in 2014. The school year was cited as one of the most stressful periods, the survey found.

It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health, Norman B. Anderson, CEO and executive vice president of the APA, said in a statement that accompanied release of the annual survey. In order to break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors as a nation, we need to provide teens with better support and health education at school and home, at the community level and in their interactions with health care professionals.

When Pew Research Center looked at teens, it focused primarily on facts regarding technology, noting that 95 percent are online, that most have a cellphone though not necessarily a smartphone, that they're virtually all involved with some form of social networking on the Internet.

Job reports paint a different picture of the teen years. According to a ChildTrends teen and young adult employment report, job numbers have bounced up and down a bit since 2000, but the trend overall has been down.

Finding jobs is a challenge for teens, particularly since the start of the recession in 2007, which saw a lot of older Americans competing for jobs that had traditionally been held by teens. 2010 marked an absolute low point, the Deseret News reported, but the numbers are still bouncing around.

According to ChildTrends, in "October 2013, 47 percent of all youth ages 16-24 were employed either full- or part-time. Youth enrolled in high school had an employment rate of 17 percent, while the rate for those in college, either full- or part-time, was 45 percent."

It said that 35 percent of the group, which ranges from high school through mid-20s, were not employed at all.

As for who teens are, Stageoflife.com reports that 96.5 percent of American teenagers have "performed a random act of kindness," most alone and without fanfare. More than half volunteer during the holidays and donate both time and money.
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