A new study suggests that there may be a link between young people who exhibit risky behavior while driving and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, research shows that psychological distress may precipitate these risky driving behaviors. Australian researchers looked at two well-established facts for the basis of their study. One, younger drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents, particularly those resulting in death, than their older counterparts. Second, mental stress and psychological impairment have been shown to lead to risk taking in younger people, including alcohol and drug abuse and promiscuity. The study, led by Birdie Scott-Parker, from Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, looked at answers to a questionnaire designed to determine if risky driving behavior, such as driving without a safety restraint, driving while texting or speeding, was related to psychological well-being. The researchers compiled data from 761 questionnaires filled out by drivers between the ages of 17 and 25. Each driver had a valid license that allowed them to drive without supervision.
The results showed that psychological impairment, stress or illness was directly related to risky driving in more than 8% of those questioned. However, there was a variance between men and women respondents. "The association was greater in women than in men, with 9.5 per cent being explained by psychological distress in women compared with 6.7 per cent in men," Scott-Parker said.
The researchers believe that this information could potentially help identify adolescents at risk for accidents due to psychological health. Scott Parker said, “Young people presenting to medical and mental health professionals could be screened for current psychological distress, particularly if they have incurred injury through risky behavior.” She added, "These drivers could be targeted with specific road safety countermeasures and efforts made to improve their mental wellbeing by monitoring them for signs of depression and anxiety."
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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