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The Anxious Generation

By Jonathan Haidt

book iconPenguin


THE INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

From New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Coddling of the American Mind, an essential investigation into the collapse of youth mental health—and a plan for a healthier, freer childhood.

“Erudite, engaging, combative, crusading.” —New York Times Book Review

“Words that chill the parental heart…  thanks to Mr. Haidt, we can glimpse the true horror of what happened not only in the U.S. but also elsewhere in the English-speaking world… lucid, memorable… galvanizing.” —Wall Street Journal

"[An] important new book...The shift in kids’ energy and attention from the physical world to the virtual one, Haidt shows, has been catastrophic, especially for girls." —Michelle Goldberg,
The New York Times

After more than a decade of stability or improvement, the mental health of adolescents plunged in the early 2010s. Rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide rose sharply, more than doubling on many measures. Why?

In The Anxious Generation, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the facts about the epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time. He then investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults. Haidt shows how the “play-based childhood” began to decline in the 1980s, and how it was finally wiped out by the arrival of the “phone-based childhood” in the early 2010s. He presents more than a dozen mechanisms by which this “great rewiring of childhood” has interfered with children’s social and neurological development, covering everything from sleep deprivation to attention fragmentation, addiction, loneliness, social contagion, social comparison, and perfectionism. He explains why social media damages girls more than boys and why boys have been withdrawing from the real world into the virtual world, with disastrous consequences for themselves, their families, and their societies.

Most important, Haidt issues a clear call to action. He diagnoses the “collective action problems” that trap us, and then proposes four simple rules that might set us free. He describes steps that parents, teachers, schools, tech companies, and governments can take to end the epidemic of mental illness and restore a more humane childhood.

Haidt has spent his career speaking truth backed by data in the most difficult landscapes—communities polarized by politics and religion, campuses battling culture wars, and now the public health emergency faced by Gen Z. We cannot afford to ignore his findings about protecting our children—and ourselves—from the psychological damage of a phone-based life.

Summary by AI

The Anxious Generation: Why the Kids Are Stressed Out, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It by Jonathan Haidt

Author's Background:

  • Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and professor at New York University.
  • He is known for his research on moral psychology and the psychology of religion.

Main Theme:

  • The book explores the rise of anxiety and depression among young people in recent decades.

Key Points:

  • Increased Pressure: Young people today face more pressure than previous generations due to factors such as social media, academic competition, and economic uncertainty.
  • Social Media: Social media platforms can contribute to anxiety by promoting unrealistic body images, fostering a culture of comparison, and exposing users to cyberbullying.
  • Helicopter Parenting: Overprotective parenting can stifle children's independence and resilience, making them more vulnerable to anxiety.
  • Lack of Meaning: Many young people feel a lack of purpose and direction in their lives, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Cognitive Distortions: Anxious individuals tend to engage in negative thinking patterns, such as catastrophizing and overgeneralizing.


  • Positive:
    • Praised for its thorough research and insightful analysis.
    • Provides practical advice for parents, educators, and policymakers.
  • Negative:
    • Some critics argue that the book oversimplifies the causes of anxiety.
    • Others suggest that it focuses too much on individual factors and not enough on societal issues.

Who Should Read It:

  • Parents and educators concerned about the mental health of young people.
  • Policymakers interested in addressing the issue of anxiety among youth.
  • Individuals who are struggling with anxiety or depression.


Peter Trizuliak



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