The years of the Great Depression are frequently referenced when evoking feelings of turmoil, stress, and despair over economic conditions and the course of life in general. But in some ways, those who lived through the Great Depression may have enjoyed a higher quality of life than modern populations. So suggests a recent study performed at San Diego State University, in which researchers compared survey results between college students and adolescents of the Great Depression era with those of today’s younger generation. The study found that modern youths weren’t simply more likely to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. The results show that the young people of today are five times as likely to experience such issues as their Great Depression-era counterparts.
While the statistics-–which show that depression itself rose from one to six percent, and hypomania from five to thirty one percent, among other indicators–may seem startlingly strong to some, the study’s lead author goes so far as to suggest that the self-reported answers about mental health issue symptoms may have produced lower rates than are actually present within the modern population due to higher numbers of adolescents and young adults taking anti-depressant and other psychiatric medications.
Mental health professionals, educators, parents, and young people themselves are of course interested in discovering precisely why the rise has been so dramatic, though many suspect that increased expectations among youth, higher focus on financial success, and increased dependency on parents during childhood may be to blame. The study helps to make the case for the involvement of complex and long-term personal factors in the development of mental health concerns rather than a simple correlation with the state of the economy.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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