From the bustling streets of New York City to out-the-way Glasgow, Montana, officially the most remote town in the U.S., the majority of parents, wherever they live, can find their teenager’s behavior challenging at times.
But did you know that the mental health of adolescents, particularly teenagers, is heavily affected and shaped by the physical environment they grow up in?
It’s a known medical fact, for example, that the air your teenager breathes can dramatically influence and affect both their physical and mental wellbeing.
Numerous research studies into air quality have found that children who grow up in areas of high air pollution are far more likely to develop major depressive disorder (or MDD) by the time they reach 18 years of age.
It’s a frightening thought, isn’t it, how something we probably consider as out of our control can so fundamentally affect our kids’ health?
As much as we may want to move home at various parts of our lives because of the important events in our lives, such as starting and raising a family, not all of us can simply “up sticks” and move to a new place where there’s simply more sunshine and less rain.
Oh, and great schools, too…
In fact, and this will definitely surprise you, the typical adult lives only 18 miles from his or her mother, according to a recent survey data analysis published in the New York Times.
But if you could do exactly that, and (mothers and) money – the most common and biggest obstacle stopping us living how we wish to – was no object, which would be the best cities in the U.S. to live in and to raise your teenager?
And how could you possibly decide which one would be the “best fit” for your individual family?
The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Raise Your Teenager in 2022
|2||Overland Parks, Kansas|
|6||San Diego, California|
|8||San Jose, California|
Challenging Times for U.S. Teenagers
Among adolescent mental health experts, psychiatrists and psychologists around the U.S., there is a deep and understandable concern that the mental well-being of the nation’s children and teenagers is in serious crisis.
When compared to the mental health of youngsters the same age in other advanced nations around the world, the children and teenagers in the U.S. endure more negative experiences and poorer outcomes across several important indicators of health and social well-being.
These indicators include family poverty, lifespan, their exposure to trauma and crime, and, significantly, their access to professional health care.
Teenage Mental Health in the U.S.
The coronavirus pandemic changed the life of us all. For youth in the U.S., it brought social isolation from their friends and peers, enforced school closures, family loss and illness, and, in many instances, a constant feeling of worry and anxiety about themselves and others.
However, the pandemic was only a spark that lit the fire underneath an already existing national mental health problem. Numerous research studies show teenage mental health was already in a steady, relentless decline well before the arrival of the coronavirus.
From 2016 to 2021, the use of mental health services by children aged up to 19 years significantly increased, including a 20% increase in emergency room visits, and a massive 61% increase in inpatient admissions.
For those already experiencing mental health disorders and behavioral problems, life became much harder under the pandemic, as their vital ongoing access to continued mental health care was severely restricted.
The Difficult Challenges Facing U.S. Teens
For many U.S. teenagers, accessing the health care they need means opening up to parents about the way they’re feeling – the constant worry and the never-ending feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
The feared, yet unnecessary stigma and shame they may feel in doing so could cause them to find other ways to simply feel better or to find a solution themselves, whatever that might be.
The Lethal Dangers of “Self-Medication”
Many teenagers choose the dangerous path of substance use to try to feel better about themselves. However, in this day-and-age, the illicit drug supply is fraught with unknown dangers, predominantly the possible presence of fentanyl, the potent synthetic opioid now driving the national opioid overdose crisis, and other man-made substances.
A recent research study into fatal drug overdoses carried out by theUniversity of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – “Trends in Drug Overdose Deaths Among US Adolescents, January 2010 to June 2021” – found the death rate for adolescents during 2020 was nearly double the rate from 2019.
The Final “Cry for Help”
For those teenagers who choose to attempt suicide to escape their mental pain, professional medical help is difficult to access. According to an investigation by the New York Times in 2022, inpatient psychiatric services are in such short supply that adolescents are spending days, even weeks, in hospital emergency departments awaiting the treatment they desperately need.
The latest data on teenage suicide shows that suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among people age 15 – 24 in the U.S. Nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide, and tragically, 9% have made an attempt to take their lives, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Homeless Students? Yes, They Do Exist
Lastly, did you know that more than 104,000 New York City students were actually homeless last year, according to Advocates for Children of New York, a nonprofit that collects annual data on homeless students? Other large U.S. cities and metropolitan areas are seeing a similar picture, too.
According to data from the HUD Exchange, the situation in New York is nothing new. At least 700,000 adolescent minors, aged 13 – 17, will experience a form of homelessness in the course of a year – that amounts to 1 in every 30 adolescent minors.
Human Growth & Development: The Teenage Years
During teenagehood, surging hormones, combined with significant physical changes as the body develops, the inherent need to find a sense of identity, growing social awareness, peer-pressure from friends, and an unstoppable sense of independence, mean the teenage years are an intense and often confusing time for your child.
Undoubtedly, it can be equally confusing for their parents, too. Here’s what’s happening in your teen’s brain during this time:
Teenage Brain Development
Even after it has reached its maximum size (which is around 11 years for girls, and 14 years for boys), the human brain doesn’t reach full maturity until much, much later – at around 25 years of age, when kids are actually well into their young adulthood.
In the meantime, during the years of developing maturity, the teenage brain is an area of ceaseless, life-changing activity.
The prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain’s that is responsible for skills like planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses, is actually one of the last brain regions to mature.
Because these skills are still developing, teenagers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors – unsafe sex, substance use, petty ctime and other risk-ridden outcomes – without considering the potential outcome of any of their actions.
The teen brain is also primed and ready to learn and adapt. Because of the plasticity of the teenage brain, it can change, adapt, and respond to its environment. Academics and other mental activities, exercise, and creative activities can help the brain to fully mature – and learn at the same time.
Adolescence & The Emergence of Mental Health Disorders
However, many mental health disorders can begin to appear during adolescence, as all these ongoing changes in the brain, along with physical, emotional, and social changes, can make teens vulnerable and susceptible to mental health problems.
Many diverse mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders, can emerge during this period. Teenagers are also more vulnerable to stress, which could lead again to stress-related mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Regardless of all of this, the teenage brain is a resilient organ. Although adolescence is a vulnerable time for teenagers in general, obviously, most teens do go on to become healthy adults.
In fact, some changes in the brain during this important phase may help protect against long-term mental disorders.
The Critical Role of Environment in Teenage Development
The physical environment in which your teenager grows up and matures – all of the surroundings and the influences within – will strongly impact upon both their physical and mental health.
As we described earlier, for example, research has shown that higher levels of pollution can lead to major depressive disorder by the time teens reach 18 years of age. It doesn’t stop there.
1. The Effect of the Outdoor Physical Environment
As you would expect, teenagers who live in cities tend to experience far more stimuli than those who live in rural areas. In fact, attractions and entertaining things to do form a significant part of the WalletHub survey. Too much stimuli, however, can become a problem.
For some teens, this additional stimuli can be overwhelming, and can exacerbate problems like anxiety or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
On the other hand, people living in rural areas may experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can be unhealthy on their own, and may possibly lead to or increase symptoms of depression.
2. The Effect of Housing
Obviously, what’s behind the family home’s front door also plays a major role as it forms an integral part of the physical environment.
Unhealthy houses, such as those that have bugs, mold, and other problems can contribute to the mental health problems of all the people who live in the house, including teenagers.
Your teenager might also feel embarrassed by the state of the house, and so will not want to bring friends over. This in turn can lead to distressing feelings of stress and isolation from their peers.
Furthermore, If a teenager is required to contribute financially, but can’t, obviously this can lead to similar issues.
All of the various factors will undoubtedly contribute to either triggering mental health problems or worsening existing mental health problems.
3. The Effect of People and Relationships
The physical environment includes the people in a teenager’s life, and the circumstances and behaviors can have a serious impact on your teenager’s mental health. Although the most influential people in a teenager’s life are their parents and other family members, close friends can also exert the same impactful influence.
If parents, other family members and close friends have their own mental health issues or substance use problems, these influences will certainly affect the teenager, as well.
Many teenagers can also experience some form of trauma during their adolescence, and this has a profound impact. For example, domestic abuse in the home, either physical, sexual or mental, will undoubtedly affect your teen, and this effect will last into their adulthood, too.
Undoubtedly, teens who experience encouragement, being challenged, praised, and supported by their teachers or peers are far more likely to have positive mental health outcomes.
However, on the flipside, teens who experience negative interpersonal relationships – such as being unfairly singled out, punished, ridiculed, or bullied – may experience worse mental health outcomes than teens who don’t have those experiences.
4. The Undeniable “Hometown Effect”
According to a joint study by researchers in the U.S. Census Bureau and at Harvard University,
nearly 6 in 10 young adults live within 10 miles of their hometown, the very place they grew up in, and 8 in 10 live within 100 miles.
Without a doubt, the unseen pull of your hometown can be seriously strong, even with a healthy bank balance. Take world-famous, multi-millionaire dollar, rock star Mr. Bruce Springsteen, for example:
“Everybody has a love-hate relationship with their hometown. It’s just built into the equation of growing up. If you take me, I’m “Mr. Born to Run.” I’m “Mr. Thunder Road.” My home, New Jersey – it’s a death trap. It’s a suicide rap.”
“And now? I currently live 10 minutes from my hometown.”
– Bruce Springsteen, “Springsteen on Broadway” at the Walter Kerr Theater, New York (2018)
The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Raise Your Teenager in 2022
The WalletHub survey on the best U.S. cities to live in 2022 ranked a total of 182 U.S. cities after comparing factors like family fun and entertainment, health and safety, the standard of education, affordability, and socio-economics.
The Teenage Family Home: The Most Important Factors to Consider
Here’s more detail on what each of those factors involve:
|1||Family Fun:||Climate, walkability, and the number of fun and entertaining things to do, such as parks, attractions, and sports facilities|
|2||Health & Safety:||Air and water quality, crime rates, homelessness rate, pedestrian and driver fatalities, hospital / health care rankings, pediatricians per capita, and vaccination rates|
|3||Education:||The quality of school systems, high school graduation rates, parental leave policies, and summer learning opportunities|
|4||Affordability:||Median family incomes, cost of living, and housing costs|
|5||Socio-Economics:||Divorce rates, the share of two-parent families, the number of families living in poverty, and the rates of employment and debt|
Many states rank more highly for happiness and well-being than others. The “The Happiest States in the U.S. 2022 Report,” published on our Modern Recovery Services website, revealed that these states ranked the best for its residents’ happiness:
- Massachusetts; 2. New Hampshire; 3. Maryland; 4. Minnesota; 5. Vermont; 6. New Jersey;
- Rhode Island; 8. Wisconsin; 9. Hawaii; and 10. Maine.
Part of the criteria used for these rankings involved the state of well-being of residents. Solely using these rankings, here are the results for the U.S. states with the highest levels of well-being:
- Massachusetts; 2. Hawaii; 3. New Jersey; 4. Maryland; 5. New York; 6. California;
- Colorado; 8. Connecticut; 9. Washington; and 10: Utah
No mention of California, for instance, anywhere in these rankings. Surprising then…
Revealed: The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Raise Your Teenager in 2022
The top-ranked and best city to raise a teenager in the U.S. is… Fremont, in sunny California.
What Makes Fremont, California, the Best U.S. City to Raise Your Teenager?
According to WalletHub’s survey rankings, the top-rated city to raise your teen is Fremont, California, situated on San Francisco Bay and the fourth largest city in the famous Silicon Valley.
Fremont ranked #1 both for both health and safety and socio-economics, as well as #2 for education. Despite being in the Bay Area, not the cheapest place in the U.S. to live, Fremont still makes #29 for affordability.
In 2021, WalletHub also ranked Fremont as one of America’s least stressed cities. It was also ranked #5 as the most caring city in the U.S., and this year, Fremont ranked #1 for the lowest separation and divorce rate in the nation.
The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Raise Your Teenager in 2022: Rankings
Source: WalletHub – Best & Worst Places to Raise a Family (published 2022)
|#||U.S. City||Family Fun||
|2||Overland Park, KS||110||25||4||1||3|
|6||San Diego, CA||5||16||10||80||22|
|8||San Jose, CA||41||6||11||67||12|
Of course, we couldn’t let these rankings rest there, as our “hometown” is a mere half an hour from Scottsdale, in Arizona, which made #10 in the best cities list.
Avery’s House, Arizona: Our Adolescent Mental Health Facility
Adolescence is never the same for everyone! For some teenagers, and their parents, it can be the most challenging and vulnerable phase of their lives. At Avery’s House, located in Apache Junction, Arizona, near to state capital Phoenix and #10-ranked Scottsdale, we’re immensely passionate about helping teenagers and their families to develop the skills and tools needed to navigate the day-to-day struggles they undoubtedly face.
We offer a safe and supportive environment, essential for getting the best out of our available treatments and services. With us, your teenager will learn vital skills like emotional regulation, effective communication, assertiveness, empathy, and self-awareness.
Additionally, they will learn how to identify and avoid high-risk situations, triggers, and relapses.
Typically, our Teen Mental Health Program lasts about 28 days. However, the time a child spends in treatment can be longer, based on the clinician’s recommendation and the parent/guardian’s insurance coverage.
Our professional teenage therapies cover mental health disorders and behavioral issues, such as:
- Depression Treatment
- Anxiety Treatment
- PTSD Treatment
- Co-occurring Disorder Treatment
- Self-harm Treatment, and
- OCD Treatment
In addition, we also provide a range of activities and structure for teenagers to keep up with school and social responsibilities while in treatment. Here are just some of the ways we foster growth:
- Art Therapy
- Music Therapy
- Community Based Activities
- Schooling Options
- Medication Management
Would you like to learn more about our teen mental health treatment and other services here at Avery’s House? If so, simply call (855) 506-1906 today, and we’ll be happy to answer any and all of the questions that you may have.