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Oh no: the children’s word of the year is … “anxiety.”

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January 18, 2022, 1:05pm

Pretty depressing news: according to new research from Oxford University Press, children have chosen “anxiety” as their word of the year for 2021.

OUP surveyed over eight thousand children from over 85 schools in the UK, from ages seven to fourteen, and asked them to choose the top words they would use when talking about health and wellbeing. (OUP chose wellbeing as their research focus this year in response to concerns about children’s mental health in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.) 21% of children chose “anxiety.” Runners-up included “challenging,” “isolate,” “wellbeing,” and “resilience.”

The students’ teachers, also surveyed, chose “resilience” as their top word (31%), as well as “challenging” and “well-being” as runners-up. Evidently, teachers’ methods of talking about well-being rubbed off on their students, given the overlap in words; said Helen Freeman, director of early childhood and home education at OUP, said, “The findings highlight the crucial role teachers play in equipping children with the appropriate vocabulary to articulate their emotions and support their wellbeing.”

Still . . . “anxiety.” Joe Jenkins, The Children’s Society’s executive director of social impact, told The Guardian that the children’s choice of “anxiety” was “concerning,” but unsurprising “when you consider all the restrictions and changes children had to endure.” Meanwhile, the OED chose “vax” as its word of the year; let’s hope next year’s word is “lockdown” or “universal healthcare” or “stimulus checks” or “rent freeze.”

[h/t The Bookseller, The Guardian]

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