Image: Mark Mawson/Getty

Image: Mark Mawson/Getty

Mollycoddled and cosseted or stressed and over-pressured. Energised and engaged or bored and turned off. Young people have so many labels and stereotypes slapped on them it’s a wonder these are not visible on their endless selfies. What is undeniably true is that the evidence suggests that rates of depression, self-harm and anxiety among young people are at unprecedented levels.

Youth unemployment and the cost of higher education is rapidly rising, a drought of affordable housing coupled with low pay is keeping many young people sealed under the parental roof and trapped in what one report called “suspended adulthood”. The ubiquity of the internet and social media, with its dark underbelly of hardcore pornography, body shaming and cyberbullying, is encroaching on their wellbeing, while a relentless focus on academic high-achieving is turning up the pressure in the classroom. Youth, traditionally thought of as the most enviable time of life, can now look like a deeply challenging and sometimes unpleasant time of life.

But is the experience of adolescence – defined as the period after childhood, from puberty to maturity – any tougher now than it was for previous generations? And when does it stop, given that some experts argue that full intellectual maturity is reached at the age of 27.

– Tracy McVeigh

Read more: It’s never been easy being a teenager. But is this a generation in crisis?