Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.
Modern teens are healthy squares
Teens these days are much better behaved than we were. In a new paper published in Social Science & Medicine, the authors document dramatic declines in the kind of behaviors that have defined teens for generations: drinking, smoking, partying, and having sex. Over the last 25 years in various high-income countries like the United States, Australia, and England:
- Daily cigarette smoking has declined by over 80 percent
- The prevalence and frequency of drinking declined markedly between 2000 and 2015, including heavy episodic drinking
- Cannabis use is down from the 1990s, but current rates vary across countries
- Teens are having sex for the first time at older ages
- Juvenile crime rates have declined between 40 and 80 percent
You can see exact statistics for each country and all charts here.
There’s more for the US in particular. Last month the nonpartisan research center Child Trends collated data from the National Center for Health Statistics on teen pregnancy. They found that teen birth rates have declined 77 percent in the past 30 years.
While Child Trends chalks up the drop to less sexual activity and more contraceptive use, The New York Times did a treatment on the topic that tied together the lower rates of teen births with the amelioration of child poverty—a 59 percent drop nationwide from 1993 to 2019. “Does cutting teen births reduce child poverty, or does cutting child poverty reduce teen births?” the article asks.
And doesn’t answer, as we don’t know. While it does seem clear that larger trends around teens having sex later would lead to fewer pregnancies, why teen behavior has changed so much as a whole is a second question that is, for now, unanswered.
The Social Science & Medicine paper does devote time to examining it, though, coming up with several interesting threads to follow. Here’s what we do know: teens are definitely spending less face-to-face time with friends, which may help explain the lack of partying and its associated behaviors. That is potentially troubling. It is not, however, because teens are on their screens all the time instead of hanging out, as the common narrative goes. “Rather,” the paper authors write, “there is evidence that digital communication typically facilitates or complements in-person socializing among young people.” And there is also evidence that teens who are on the internet heavily are more likely to smoke and drink than those who aren’t.
So perhaps something more wholesome is going on. The paper goes through many other possible factors that could be influencing teen behavior in addition to less hang-out time, including older, better educated parents; more involved fathers; authoritarian parenting becoming less common; declining rates of child physical and sexual abuse; teens seeing the “party lifestyle” as incompatible with their academic and career success; better knowledge of health risks; and a lot more.
We can’t come to conclusions without further research. But for now it’s safe to say that today’s teens are on the straight and narrow more than we were. And they are likely on the road to longer, healthier lives, too.
Before we go
After a particularly violent 2020 and 2021, while the US was going slightly bonkers from the combination of the pandemic and politics, 2022 data from two dozen US cities is showing falling murder rates, due to a decline in gun violence. Substacker and data analyst Jeff Asher digs into the data here to see if this is a sign of a long-term trend or not.
Pair that analysis with this New York Times op-ed on the successes of reframing gun control as gun safety, and the public support of such. It will be a much-needed tonic for those feeling broken by shootings in the US.
And, Zambia has become the latest of 25 sub-Saharan African nations to abolish the death penalty.
Below in the links section, asteroid-hunting spacecraft, legalized hallucinogenic mushrooms, a new battery with four times the energy storage capacity of lithium, and more.
Other good stuff in the news 🌳
Energy & Environment:
- Defying expectations, EU emissions plunged this fall | The Hill
- The 17 best EVs coming in 2023 | Wired
- This new sea salt battery has 4 times the capacity of lithium | Euronews
- UK forests lock away twice as much planet-warming carbon as previously thought | BBC
- In a major shift, Japan adopts plan to maximize nuclear energy | AP
Science & Tech:
- Phoenix airport 1st to offer self-driving ride service Waymo | AP
- World’s first asteroid-hunting spacecraft to launch in 2028 | Wired
- This tiny Dutch vehicle for people with disabilities is taking off | MIT Technology Review
- Millions of Americans can now order Walmart drone deliveries | Axios
Politics & Policy:
- In 2023, the minimum wage rises are coming | Yahoo! Finance
- Preventing homelessness is a key focus of a new White House plan | NPR
- President Biden signs bill outlawing private ownership of big cats | The New York Times
- US Senate passes milestone protections for pregnant workers and new mothers | Axios
- The US has a new pollution rule for heavy-duty trucks for the first time in 2 decades | Grist
- Legal use of hallucinogenic mushrooms begins in Oregon | The New York Times
- Mystery of smell loss after Covid-19 might be solved | The Wall Street Journal
- Cancer vaccines are showing promise. Here’s how they work. | National Geographic
- Telehealth brings expert sexual assault exams to rural patients | The 19th
- FDA finalizes rule expanding availability of abortion pills | AP
Society & Culture:
- Afghan men show support for women after Taliban college ban | Bloomberg
- Patty Murray makes history as first female Senate pro tem | The Washington Post
- First-time drug users will not be prosecuted under UK police chiefs’ plan | The Telegraph
- In Memphis, the phonics movement comes to high school | The New York Times
TPN Member originals 🧠
(Who are our Members? Get to know them.)
- Secret Congress delivers more good news on clean water | Matthew Yglesias
- Income inequality has been falling for a while now | Matthew Yglesias
- The happiest place on Earth? Hawaii, and the rest of America too | Tyler Cowen
- The bright side of 2022 | Zachary Karabell
- What people of 1923 predicted about 2023 | Jason Feifer
- Children’s vaccination rates are falling, and not only because of Covid | Ezekiel J. Emanuel
Until Next Time
Were the predictions made in 1923 about 2023 correct? See for yourself 🔮👇