Adolescence between (few) hopes and (many) fears

This is the cross-sectional section that emerges from the 2022 edition of the national survey on the lifestyles of adolescents living in Italy, conducted annually by the non-profit association Laboratorio Adolescenza and the IARD research institute on a nationally representative sample of 5,600 students. of the age group 13-19 years.

After the year of Covid – says Maurizio Tucci, president of Laboratorio Adolescenza – we had given this year’s survey the title “Adolescence between hopes and fears”, but unfortunately, given the facts, fears seem to be much greater than hopes. Moving from father to war, with no solution for continuity, has made adolescents, already severely affected psychologically by the pandemic, even more fragile and fearful. A fact above all that describes the situation without mercy: in an age that should be stretched all towards the future, in which dreams and utopias should be the masters, in which one should be optimistic almost “for law, ”52.7% of teens see. to their future by defining themselves as “insecure” or “worried”. The “optimists” are 14%, a percentage that drops to 12.7% among high school students and 11.8% among girls. The bitterest consideration, on which we are all called to deep reflection, is that we have built the panorama that these teenagers see when they look out the window of their future, piece by piece ”.

The difficulty of resuming sociability at the mercy of “social” models.

58% of adolescents (69.4% of women) say that during the two years of the pandemic they have eaten inadequately (too much, too little, without regulation …) and 37% complain of having gained weight. But beyond that somewhat objective aspect, 27% (35.4% of women) “look” fatter than their girlfriends average. And most importantly, 50.5% (60.7%) of girls are not satisfied with their overall physical appearance. If it has always been true that in adolescence it is not easy to live in peace with a body in strong transformation, in this aspect we can check -comparing the data of the Laboratory of Adolescents-IARD surveys of recent years (conducted in comparable samples) . ) – an effect derived from the Covid period in which social relations have been drastically reduced, and the current return to normalcy. In 2020 (data collected before the outbreak of the pandemic) dissatisfaction with physical appearance affected 31% of men (today it is 39%) and 55.4% of women (today it is 60 , 7%). The percentages of “dissatisfied” that the year of confinements and “limited sociality” had decreased (27% men and 50.1% women). It is not difficult to deduce, from these data, what part of the problem derives precisely from the comparison between oneself and others. What, moreover, should the adolescents themselves admit when they say (34% of men and 53.7% of girls) that in the assessment of their physical appearance the criterion of friends and companions is important. But above all, the role of influencer, fashion blogger, fashion, advertising is very important to influence the relationship with the body itself, and therefore also with food. This is true for 59.1% of men and even 77.6% of girls. And conditioning increases with age, from 63.5% among high school students to 70.1% in high school. Evidence that worries but can not be surprising if we consider that 76.1% say they have spent much more time on social media than in previous years. The “wish list” you like best (see table) is almost endless – and even here we find a noticeable increase in aesthetic dissatisfaction with the past – but at the top of girls’ wishes there is always more premiums (67%) and those of boys to be superior (57.2%). Going from high school to high school, the “desire,” with some explicable exceptions, tends to increase.

Sedentary adolescence

Undoubtedly, the unsatisfactory perception of physical appearance is aggravated by the widespread sedentary lifestyle, as the feeling that it is no longer exciting among Italian teenagers and sports activities has worsened even more. Comparing the data for 2022 with those for 2020 (before the pandemic), the percentage of those who stopped doing sports (who had practiced in the past) went 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 regarding girls, especially regarding not playing sports at all, is even more alarming. Clearly, since the shutdown imposed by the pandemic in 2021, many have never played sports again.

School and University

For about half of the adolescents (48%) the school year that had just ended was – from the point of view of the effects of the pandemic – more or less as they expected in September when they returned to school. . The other abundant half, on the other hand, was divided between those who found more critical issues than expected (27.5%) and those who found less (23.3%). The percentage of people who have encountered major problems increases with age and therefore the class attends. Beyond comparison with forecasts, the survey revealed interesting assessments of students about the negative effects produced by the Covid years on overall readiness and school performance. In terms of preparation, only 30% said the effects produced were few or none, while for 70% training was penalized enough or a lot. The percentage increases even more and exceeds 75% if it only refers to high school students, with no significant differences in the type of school they attend (institutes, technical or professional centers). Although the difference between men’s and women’s responses is clear: 73.2% of girls think that overall preparation has been affected compared to 64.4% of men. But the most worrying fact, because it is also an indicator of a future perspective, is the idea that teenagers have of continuing their studies after graduation. 63% of students surveyed plan to enroll in university, but 33% (even 40% of men) think not. Certainly, there is a big 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 year and only 22% excluded it. , 9%.


Travel 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, only a quarter (25.8%) aim for fun. The vast majority want to meet new places (46%), but also get in touch with new people and get to know different cultures (27.3%). But it is important to note that 57.8% (65.5% of women) over previous years the desire to travel has increased significantly and less than 10% is still influenced by Covid (and perhaps by the ongoing war) and states be more. fear that in the past. This propensity to travel, superior to that which arose in previous years, seems almost a kind of escape, even psychological, from a claustrophobic context in which adolescents have lived in recent years.

Social and family relationships

Teenagers ’relationship with parents and friends is and continues to be essentially good. A large majority consider family life to be enjoyable or quiet, and relationships with friends are good or satisfying. But in order not to always find yourself unprepared when things stop working, it is important to pay attention to some alarm bells. Although minority, but certainly not negligible, the percentage of adolescents who find family life conflictive or critical (26% of girls, 16% of boys), or who find relationships with friends unsatisfactory or difficult (18.2 % of girls, 11.3% of boys) increases slowly and steadily over the years. Above all, even in the context of positive judgments there is a significant percentage of transfer from those who define family life as “pleasant” to those who define it as “quiet”. Similarly, with regard to 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 and war

If teenagers are still struggling to regain the serenity lost due to Covid and only just over a third of the sample interviewed (35%) believe that the emergency is finally emerging – while 63.6% (70, 8% of women) fear a future rise, the outbreak of war in Ukraine has further undermined their sense of confidence in the future. The concern of adolescents is very high (percentages ranging from 80 to 90%) for most of the possible direct and indirect consequences that may arise from the conflict. The humanitarian aspects (suffering of the Ukrainian people and involvement of civilians in the war) are – together with the fear of the economic repercussions we could have of the war – the areas in which the concern is greatest. But more than 75% are also concerned about the possible outbreak of a third world war or a possible direct involvement of Italy in the conflict. It is interesting to note – but it is linked to the emotional involvement in the suffering of the Ukrainian people – that the absolute majority does not consider worrying a possible large number of refugees from war zones. The level of concern is also affected by age (increases with age) and, above all, by gender. Girls are, on average, more concerned than men (the only exception is the foreseeable influx of refugees into Italy), and even among those who say they are “worried” the degree of concern is greater in girls.

cs Mediatyche srl

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