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Roughly Half of Young Americans Face Feelings of Depression or Anxiety, Harvard IOP Youth Poll Finds

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Roughly 55 percent of Americans under 30 years old reported feeling “nervous, anxious, or on edge” and 47 percent reported feeling “down, depressed or hopeless” at least several days in the last two weeks in a new survey of young adults released by the Harvard Institute of Politics Monday.

The findings were reported as part of the IOP’s biannual youth poll, conducted by the Harvard Public Opinion Project, polling 2,069 Americans aged 18 to 29 during a 10-day period in March. The results represent a slight decrease compared to figures from the fall youth poll, which found that 58 percent of those surveyed felt anxious and 49 percent felt depressed at least several days in the last two weeks.

“From fears of mass shootings to concerns of one day becoming homeless, the current state of Gen Z could perhaps best be summarized in one word: anxious,” HPOP Student Chair Ethan L. Jasny ’25 said in a press release.

The poll also found President Joe Biden’s approval rating among young Americans has fallen to 36 percent, marking a three percentage point decrease from last fall and a five percentage point decrease from last spring.

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Following a shooting at a Nashville elementary school in March, the IOP released early results of the poll that showed 63 percent of surveyed young Americans support stricter gun laws. Survey results also found that 48 percent of young Americans have felt unsafe in the past month, and 40 percent worry about falling victim to gun violence.

“Young Americans have translated this fear into action, turning out to vote like their rights — and lives — depend on it. But we cannot take this engagement for granted. Public figures across the political divide must recognize the profound personal challenges members of my generation face every day,” Jasny said.

The poll also found that trust in the United States Supreme Court to “do the right thing” has dropped since 2018, from 43 percent to 33 percent. The decrease was most exaggerated among young women, with 40 percent responding that they trusted the Supreme Court in 2018 decreasing to 28 percent in 2023.

These results coincide with a shift over the last decade in young Americans preferring more progressive government interventions, according to the poll.

The proportion of those surveyed who believe basic health insurance is a right for all people saw an increase from 42 percent in 2013 to 65 percent in 2023, while the belief that governments should do more to curb climate change — even at the expense of economic growth — saw a sharp increase in support from 29 percent to 50 percent.

“The data collected in this poll clearly demonstrates not only the growing levels of political engagement among young people, but the urgency of addressing serious issues such as mental health, gun violence, housing, and more,” IOP Director Setti D. Warren said in the press release. “The results of previous Harvard Youth polls have had a direct influence on public policy, and I expect to see that trend continue.”

IOP Polling Director John Della Volpe said in the press release that he believes young Americans are “increasingly motivated to engage in politics” for both their own rights and for those of others.

“Every major political battle in America has Gen Z in the middle of it,” Della Volpe said. This generation has a fire and urgency unlike any I’ve seen in 20 years, and they expect their elected officials and candidates to show the same.”

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at asher.montgomery@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @asherjmont.

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