This is the cross-section that emerges from the 2022 edition of the national survey on the lives of adolescents living in Italy, carried out annually by the non-profit association Laboratorio Adolescenza and the IARD research institute on a national representative sample of 5,600 students of the age group. aged 13-19 years.
After the year of Covid – says Maurizio Tucci, president of Laboratorio Adolescenza – this year the survey was given the title “Adolescence between hopes and fears”, but unfortunately, data in hand, fears seem to be much greater than hopes. Going from Dad to war, without interruption, has made adolescents, already severely affected on a psychological level by the pandemic, even more fragile and fearful. One datum above all that describes the situation mercilessly: in an age that should be all stretched towards the future, in which dreams and utopias should be the master, in which one should be optimistic almost “by statute”, the 52.7% of adolescents look to their future by defining themselves as “uncertain” or “worried”. The “optimists” are 14%, a percentage that drops to 12.7% among high school students and 11.8% among girls. The bitter consideration, on which we are all more deeply reflective, is that we have built the panorama that adolescents see when they look out the window of their future, piece by piece “.
The difficulty in resuming sociability at the mercy of “social” models
58% of adolescents (69.4% of females) claim that in the two years of the pandemic they ate in an inappropriate way (too much, too much, unregulatedly…) and 37% complain of having gained weight. But beyond this somewhat objective aspect, 27% (35.4% of females) “see themselves” fatter than the average of their friends. And most importantly, 50.5% (60.7%) of girls are not satisfied with their general physical appearance. If it has always been true that in adolescence it is not easy to live peacefully with a body in strong transformation, on this aspect we can see – by comparing the data of the Adolescent Laboratory-IARD surveys of the past years (made on comparable samples) – an effect from the resulting period Covid in which social relations are drastically reduced, and the current return to normal. In 2020 (data collected before the outbreak of the pandemic) physical dissatisfaction with one’s physical appearance was in 31% of males (today it is 39%) and 55.4% of females (today it is 60.7%). Percentages of “dissatisfied” that in the year of lockdowns and “limited sociality” had decreased (27% males and 50.1% females). It is not difficult to deduce, from these data, how much of the problem derives precisely from the comparison between oneself and others. What, moreover, are the same adolescents to admit when they say (34% of males and 53.7% of girls) that in the evaluation of their physical appearance the judgment of friends and companions is important. But, above all, to adopt the relationship with one’s body, and therefore also with food, the role of influencer, fashion blogger, fashion, advertising is very important. This is true for 59.1% of males and even 77.6% of girls. And conditioning increases with age, going from 63.5% among junior high school students to 70.1% in high school. Evidence that worries but cannot surprise if we consider that 76.1% say they have spent much more time on social media than in previous years. The “wish list” to like each other more (see table) is almost endless – and even here we are aesthetic dissatisfactions we want to increase compared to the past – but at the top of the desires of girls there is always being thinner (67% ) and those of the boys to be higher (57.2%). Passing from middle school to middle school, the “wish”, with some explainable exceptions, tend to be some higher.
The unsatisfactory perception of one’s physical appearance is indeed aggravated by the widespread sedentary lifestyle, as Italians have further improved the already not exciting feeling between adolescents and sporting activities. Comparing the 2022 data with those of 2020 (before the pandemic), the percentage of those who have stopped doing sports in the past (which they had practiced in the past) is from 20.1% (2020) to 32.4% (2022), but also among those who still practice sports outside of school, the percentage of those who practice at least two hours a week fell from 62.4% (2020) to 49.5% (2022). And the data concerning girls, especially relative to not practicing sports in an absolute way, is even more alarming. It is clear that, since the stop imposed by the pandemic in 2021, many have never resumed playing sports.
School and University
For about half of the teenagers (48%) the school year just ended was – from the point of view of the effects of the pandemic – about the same as they expected in September when they were back on the school desks. The other abundant half, on the other hand, was divided between those who found more critical issues than expected (27.5%) and those less (23.3%). The percentage of those who have encountered major problems increases with increasing age and therefore the class attended. Beyond the risk compared to forecasts, the survey revealed interesting assessments of students about the negative effects produced by the Covid-years on overall preparation and school performance. With regard to preparation, only 30% say that the effects produced were little or no, while for 70% the training was penalized enough or a lot. The percentage rises again and exceeds 75% if we refer only to high school students, with no significant differences with respect to the type of school attended (high schools, technical or professional schools). While the difference between the answers of males and those of females is clear: 73.2% of girls think that the overall preparation has been affected compared to 64.4% of males. But the most worrying data, because it is also an indicator of a future perspective, concerns the idea that adolescents have about continuing their studies after graduation. 63% of the students interviewed think of enrolling at the University, but 33% (even 40% of males) think they do not. Certainly there is a large gap between high school students and those of technical and professional institutes, but the difference in response compared to 2018 is alarming, when 76.8% planned the university course and barely excluded it on 22nd. 9%.
Traveling is of great interest to 77.4% of girls and 57.7% of boys. Only 6% have little or no interest in doing so. And among travelers, just a quarter (25.8%) have fun as their goal. The vast majority want new places (46%), but also get in touch with new people and learn about different cultures (27.3%). But it is important to note that 57.8% (65.5% of females) over the years have greatly increased the desire to travel and less than 10% are still influenced by Covid (and perhaps by the ongoing war) and he claims to be more afraid than in the past. This propensity to travel, higher than in previous years, appears almost a sort of escape, even psychological, from a claustrophobic context in which adolescents have lived in recent years.
Social and family relationships
The relationship of adolescents with parents and friends is and remains good. A large majority consider family life to be pleasant or peaceful, and relationships with parents to be excellent or satisfying. But just in order not to always find yourself unprepared when things stop working, it is important to pay attention to some alarm bells. Although a minority, but certainly not negligible, the percentage of adolescents who find family life conflicting or criticism (26% of girls, 16% of boys), or who find relationships with friends unsatisfactory or difficult (18.2% of girls, 11.3% of boys) is slowly and steadily increasing over the years. Above all, even in the context of positive judgments, there is a significant percentage transfer from those who define family life as “pleasant” to those who define it as “quiet”. Similarly, as regards relationships with friends, there is a percentage increase in those who define relationships as “satisfactory” to the detriment of those who define them as “excellent”.
Covid & War
If adolescents are still struggling to regain the serenity lost due to Covid and only more than a third of the sample interviewed (35%) believe that the emergency is definitively emerging – while 63.6% (70.8% of the females) fears future upsurge -, the outbreak of war in Ukraine makes sense further undermined theirs towards the future. The will of adolescents is very high (percentages ranging between 80 and 90%) for most of the possible direct and indirect consequences that can derive from the conflict. The humanitarian aspects (suffering of the Ukrainian and involvement of civilians in the war) are – together with the people of economic repercussions than having the fear of war – the objectives towards which the struggle is greater. But over 75% are also worried about the possible outbreak of a third world war or a possible direct involvement of Italy in the conflict. It is interesting to observe – but it is linked to the emotional involvement in the suffering of the Ukrainian people – that the absolute majority does not consider a possible large number of refugees from war zones to be worrying. The level of growth (mainly affected by age increases with increasing age) and, above all, gender. Girls are on average more worried than males (the only exception being the foreseeable flow of refugees in Italy), and even among those who say they are “worried” the degree of dating is higher in girls.
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