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Shannon's health and fitness blog

More mental health issues in teens and young adults

A new study has found that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health problems as youth of the same age who were studied during the Great Depression era.

Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor led a group of researchers at five universities to analyze the responses of 77, 576 high school or college students who, from 1938 through 2007, took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI).  Five times as many students in 2007 surpassed thresholds in one or more mental health categories, than those that did so in 1938.   Hypomania, a measure of anxiety and unrealistic optimism increased from 5% in 1938 to 31% in 2007.  Depression increased from 1% to 6%.  Twenge felt these numbers may even be low due to the large numbers of students who take antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.  The study also showed increases in “psychopathic deviation,” which is defined as having trouble with authority and feeling as though the rules don’t apply to you.  These numbers increased from 5% in 1938 to 24% in 2007.

Researchers feel that a popular culture increasingly focused on wealth, looks, and status has contributed to the increase in mental health issues.  They also note that some well-meaning but overprotective parents have left their children with few real-world coping skills, like budgeting their own money and confronting a professor on their own.  It is very easy to become anxious when these skills are lacking.  Scott Hunter, director of pediatric neuropsychology at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital states that this latest generation has been raised in a “you can do anything atmosphere and that sets up a lot of false expectation” that inevitably leads to distress for some.

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January 12, 2010 - Posted by | Children, Health

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