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Medicine United States Science

US Youth Have Serious Mental Health Issues 818

Ant writes "Google News carries a Canadian Press report that 'a new study has found that five times as many high school and college students in the United States are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues than youth of the same age who were studied in the Great Depression era. ... Pulling together the data for the study was no small task. Led by [San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge], researchers at five universities analyzed the responses of 77,576 high school or college students who, from 1938 through 2007, took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI. The results will be published in a future issue of the Clinical Psychology Review. Overall, an average of five times as many students in 2007 surpassed thresholds in one or more mental health categories, compared with those who did so in 1938. A few individual categories increased at an even greater rate — with six times as many scoring high in two areas: 'hypomania,' a measure of anxiety and unrealistic optimism (from 5 per cent of students in 1938 to 31 per cent in 2007), and depression (from 1 per cent to 6 per cent).'"
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US Youth Have Serious Mental Health Issues

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:31AM (#30736722)

    Stop being a bunch of wussies!

    Seriously, kids today have to wear helmets just to ride a bike, have some pediatrician putting them on powerful Autism medication if they don't start talking at just the right time, are diagnosed with Asperger's the second they show the least bit of shyness, are taught by teachers who scream "AHDHD--Drug him up!" the first time they act out in class, and come home to parents who think that a child molester is hanging out on ever street corner just waiting to kidnap their kid. *They're* not the ones who are screwed up, it's the adults around them that are screwed up.

    JUST LET THEM BE KIDS, for Christ sake! Stop acting like there is something wrong with them because they're not perfect, or act differently than you expect, or make stupid mistakes. That's what makes them kids. Stop cocooning them like they're delicate eggs who will crack at the slightest risk or challenge. And, above all, stop drugging them up. A kid shouldn't be taking medication for anything less than a serious physical problem. You don't give a kid powerful psychotropic drugs just because they're rebellious or shy. They'll have plenty of time to dope themselves into a stupor and cry at a psychologist's office when they're adults.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      You don't give a kid powerful psychotropic drugs just because they're rebellious or shy.

      Perhaps that's part of the problem. More LSD!!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:50AM (#30736998)

      American youth today have it very easy.

      When I grew up in Hungary in the 1950s, life was somewhat difficult. My family was lucky, as my father was a supervisor at a washing machine factory, and my mother was lucky to have a job as a seamstress. We at least had food, and did not go hungry like so many of our neighbors!

      We had one neighbor, Piotr, who had several children. One of them died just after birth, and another drowned. His three remaining children grew to be adults. But when they were young, old Piotr did not have enough food to feed his entire family! He would provide the best nourishment to his children and wife, while during tough times he would eat grass, paper and sawdust.

      But let me tell you, what the children ate was not so good compared to today's food! The bread, it was almost always stale. So it was used in horrid stews of left over meat and dirty water. On rare occasion there was chocolate (maybe once or twice a year). There were no Coca Colas! There were no potato chips! There were no McDonalds or Burger Kings!

      When you have not any food, then social pressures become quite irrelevant. Success becomes defined by the meager foodstuffs in your pantry, not by the newness of your cellular telephone or the shine of your gold ganger jewelery or the brand name shirt with a stupid logo on it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FooAtWFU ( 699187 )
        I don't know about sawdust, but whenever I'd complain, my mother would point out that at least I'm not eating Crisco sandwiches. (Not that she ever got quite to that point, but other kids at her school did).

        Take that, Mr. Standard-Of-Living.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:15AM (#30737400)

        This isn't funny, it's probably true. My father went through the Hungarian revolution, and he has stories of the entire family of 5 splitting one egg for a meal. He has a thing about cleaning off plates. He still (literally!) licks his plate clean at home.

      • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:19AM (#30737454) Journal

        There were no Coca Colas! There were no potato chips! There were no McDonalds or Burger Kings!

        So it wasn't all bad then.

      • by rev_sanchez ( 691443 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:31AM (#30737618)
        Wow, that place was aptly named.

        Now that China has over 24 million more men than women because of the One Child Per Family program they should follow that example and name their country Horny. Chile should give that name up to Canada and spell it Chilly. North Korea should hencforth be known as Korazy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Jodka ( 520060 )

        When I grew up in Hungary... life was somewhat difficult...Piotr did not have enough food to feed his entire family! He would provide the best nourishment to his children and wife, while during tough times he would eat grass, paper and sawdust....

        So is that why they named it "Hungary"?

      • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:38AM (#30737722)

        American youth today have it very easy.

        That's why findings like this are so interesting. Maybe having it easy and being happy aren't synonymous after all?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Abstrackt ( 609015 )

          American youth today have it very easy.

          That's why findings like this are so interesting. Maybe having it easy and being happy aren't synonymous after all?

          The problem is that easy is subjective. If you have nothing to compare it to, easy doesn't register as "easy", it registers as "normal". If you've encountered a large problem, others seem smaller by comparison. If you only ever encounter small problems they seem larger than they are.

          My leg was crushed in an accident; I never appreciated being able to walk until I couldn't because up to that point, it was normal. Now I have a hard time seeing people drive to the store instead of walking across the street

      • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:42AM (#30737782)

        You are right, social pressure means nothing when you are barely surviving.

        I had it a "little easier" growing up in the America in the 80s, at least in terms of food. My father would hunt anything in season, and poach anything out of season so we had meat. My family would go out in the fields after the combine harvesters and gather the vegetables that were missed. My family would buy cheap hogs feed at the farm store and mill it for bread. We had food, even if it was green beans for breakfast, green beans and bread for lunch, green beans and antelope for dinner for six months strait. And that was the good part. After my parents divorced (my father was a brutal, violent sociopath) I got to live on "welfare" while my mother struggled to get an education. I was served inedible food at school, red grease on a slice of bread and a scoop of grey spoiled vegetables. The foodstamp budget had to be split 5 ways, so I got at most one decent meal a day at home.

        Kids today get emo and suicidal because they have been given everything, never had to earn anything, never been hungry, never had anything real to fear, never been punished for their behavior and are bored with having to much entertainment. I wouldn't wish my childhood on my worst enemy, but from what I see for other people, completely pampering children is at least as destructive as the brutal abuse, crushing poverty and neglect that I endured.

        • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @02:16PM (#30740384)

          "Kids today get emo and suicidal because they have been given everything"

          No kids to day get emo and suicidal because the demands on them are OVERWHELMING, in our hyper competitive world the pressure on them is unreal, while they are not perfect or any better then previous generations, they feel they exist in a world of mutual hostility and financial insecurity. Not only that but most kids get the message at home "go to university to find a securejob or you will be poor!"

          So kids go to university rack up a bunch of debt, figure out that job security is rare, and they may not have the lifestyle their parents had and have to work longer hours for less pay with lots of debt and in shitty long hours work culture.

          You'd have to be out of your effin mind to say kids have it easy today.

      • by Zarf ( 5735 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:53AM (#30737952) Journal

        American youth today have it very easy.

        In America we have obese kids with rickets because they are starving for nutrients while gorging on cheap processed food. Some Americans have it easy. Some are dying from false-wisdom and false-plenty.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Agent Smith:

        Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost...I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by colmore ( 56499 )

        I know you may find this hard to believe, but just because you and the people you know are more successful than the people you knew when you were a kid, doesn't mean that tens of millions don't still live in dire poverty.

      • Overpopulation (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chemisor ( 97276 )

        > Old Piotr did not have enough food to feed his entire family!

        Gee, I wonder why. Maybe having five children when he couldn't even afford to feed himself had something to do with that. The poor with a brood of children have no one to blame for their poverty except their penises.

    • by jgtg32a ( 1173373 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:51AM (#30737020)

      But I'll take it one step further, and then these kids hit college and are out on their own and they don't have anyone to fall back on for support. That's when the problems start to set in.

    • by fredma123 ( 1348555 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:56AM (#30737116)
      I agree. If Parents would just stop worrying and let us make mistakes, things would be a lot better for us. We learn by making mistakes, not by parents trying to prevent every little thing from happening. It's a bit cold outside. So what? I'm not going to die.
    • by dyingtolive ( 1393037 ) <brad.arnett@n o t f orhire.org> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:17AM (#30737428)
      Damn straight. Save the good psychotropics for the rest of us that actually WANT them.

      Seriously though, the world is much smaller than it used to be. Eighty years ago, you'd have found kids largely unaffected (at least knowledgeably) by corrupt politicians, overbearing advertising, and media scares. Nowadays, with the fear that gets put into kids, it's sort of a wonder they aren't filled with more disorders. "Hey kids, SARS is going to KILL you, and if it doesn't, then Avian flu/mad cow/swine flu/zombie flu will! Better come get our vaccine." "We're going to sell you sex, but then 30 seconds later, you'll see a PSA talking about how if you hold hands with a member of the opposite sex, you'll get AIDS and die. Buy Trojan Condoms!" "This stuff must be making you pretty stressed huh? Stay away from drugs, they'll kill you the first time you use them, 100% guaranteed." The kids aren't even presented with the opportunity to be kids and enjoy being oblivious and immersed in their imaginations where they belong due to the fact that they have to be taught at a young age to treat everything with skepticism based on the fact that absolutely everything and everyone is looking to milk money from them. The youth is the cash cow of the media and industry, and with the ubiquity of tv, radio, and in-store advertising, it's impossible to shield them from it. You can always turn your kid into a shut-in, but that causes just as many issues in other ways. I remember growing up and meeting kids like that who were "released into the wild" at the high school age, and they had the social skills of a pile of bricks. Of course, I also remember riding a bike without a helmet, being a kid, and also later sex, occasional drugs, alcohol, and good times.
      • by atomic777 ( 860023 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:13PM (#30739380)
        If ever there was a post i wish i could mod up...

        I believe we are seeing a large-scale, mental health version of the tragedy of the commons that has gone completely unregulated and will likely end even worse than the unregulated financial mess we're dealing with now. An ever-escalating war for the ever-decreasing attention span our mush-like minds still have left.

        Media and advertising companies have incentives to continue to use ever more intrusive tactics to get access to our minds, and now the analytical tools to optimize those tactics. When I lived in LA, i was amazed that in some areas around hollywood I found it actually dangerous to drive, because every now and then BOOM, there's a 100ft tall poster of basically a naked woman advertising some brand of jeans or whatever. Equally potent for men and women -- the jeans you need to wear if you want the guys to want you, ladies, and to the men, a mental cue: this is what you should want.
    • Meta-diagnoses (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jones_supa ( 887896 )

      Autism ... Asperger's ... "AHDHD--Drug him up!"

      The stuff I quoted - today we have these what I call "meta-diagnoses". Some people might actually medically suffer from these, but they are also slapped around negligently with the basic message "something's wrong in you". It's increasingly hard to distinguish whether they really mean anything or not.

      Same thing with the anti-depressants which are distributed like candy. Of course now that we've begun to call mental illness a "disease" it works great for the

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      For some reason - even though we live tighter and tighter together in the society of today we also have more pronounced problems with isolation and problems when it comes to mental issues.

      Much of this seems to originate from the scare of child predators and other things. And letting the kids take themselves to school is out of the question due to the car traffic of today.

      This means that even going a block or two is a bad idea for kids today - there may be an accident. There can be kids who don't know crap a

    • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) * on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:31AM (#30737616) Homepage Journal

      You saved me from making this rant. I would have modded you up, but hey, look at your score already!!

      Yeah, if I were drugged up and pressured to conform, I'd probably be fighting several mental illnesses. Of, to put it more simply, I'd be stark raving crazy.

      Ages ago, I came home from the Navy, and visited with one of my old buddy's sisters. She had a kid in preschool already (I was two years older, and not even married yet) and was giving him his dose of Dilantin. I asked why. The answer was "Without it, he just runs and screams all day!" I asked, "Have you forgotten the way your brothers and I ran and screamed from one end of the county to the other? If we weren't audibly raising hell, our parents came looking for us, because they KNEW we were doing something WRONG!"

      Everyone wants a baby, but no one wants a kid these days.

    • by ortholattice ( 175065 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @12:10PM (#30738264)

      ..teachers who scream "AHDHD--Drug him up!" the first time they act out in class...

      (emphasis mine)

      I see even you have been sucked into the psychobabble. :) When I was a kid it was called "acting up" i.e. misbehaving. Now, its called "acting out", as if any misbehavior at all is caused by deep-rooted emotional problems that are too painful for the child to express directly. So the child "acts them out" indirectly through inappropriate behavior. Often it is accompanied by a subtle suggestion of past abuse or neglect to guilt out the parents.

    • by AP31R0N ( 723649 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:01PM (#30739186)

      Mod parent down for grossly exaggerating. Cases of over diagnosis/treatment are rare in the real world. Any doctor worth a damn will only medicate kids with a real problem. i think you're reacting to something that isn't as real as you think it is. We have a tendency to hear/think about negative things far more than positive. You won't hear about the 10 kids whose lives radically improved after being treated, only about the 1 kid that was misdiagnosed. If that rare misdiagnosis twists your panties you're going to think about it every time the matter appears (and ignore pounds of case files about proper treatment).

      Some kids DO have these conditions. Some kids will cope, others will spend their lives struggling. Our prisons are packed with people who have these conditions and weren't diagnosed or treated. My own life could have been radically different if i had been diagnosed. i went to school under people who "think" like you do. So i was "undisciplined and lazy". With treatment i could have earned the grades to go to college with scholarships instead of doing four years in the USAF followed by borrowing $30K.

      Much of this cavalier attitude you're showing comes from ignorance backed by a religious belief that humans are meat occupied by spirits. That all we do is a matter of choice and will. When the reality is that we're only meat. With the addition or removal of this or that chemical we can make a person more or less violent, attentive, horny or whatever. We can herd the cats in people heads to help them deal with a world that doesn't care if someone keeps changing the channel in their head. Consciousness can only do so much.

      i'd love to be as disciplined and awesome as you are, but my brain works like a radio in scan mode. Ever few seconds the channel changes without any input from me. Without medication sleep i get about 4 hours of sleep per day because the noise will not stop. But the rest of the world is like you, they don't get it, and they don't give a shit. They don't care that i'm reliving conversations from 15 years ago while they are talking to me. All they care about is that i forgot what they said. If only i could be as attentive and perfect as you!

      As for helmets... brain injuries are often permanent and life altering. It is a risk that just isn't worth taking. A helmet is tiny thing to require. Do you wear your seatbelt or are you so tough that you could just walk it off after slamming your head into a windshield at 50 MPH? Wow, you are so cool.

      i will agree with you that some parents are over protective and paranoid with regards to kidnapping and molesters and the like. i was allowed to range far and wide as a kid. i didn't have to go far to encounter a molester, he was right next door which is more typical than the "guy in the van". Kids should be allowed a long enough leash to learn how to handle themselves.

      On the matter of cocooning and protecting them from challenge, i agree. Giving kids challenges and allowing them to make decisions is usually great for their development. As long as some responsible adult is there to make sure it's not TOO stupid.

      The third sentence from the end highlights your ignorance with a search light and flashing neon arrows. You say that they shouldn't be taking medication for anything less than a physical problem. ADD, ADHD, Aspergers and the like ARE PHYSICAL PROBLEMS. Your brain is part of your body. Those conditions are as physical as diabetes.

      The last sentence makes me wonder if you're trolling. It's so unhinged that it seems like satire or concern trolling.

      Become less ignorant:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9679423 [nih.gov]
      http://www.crimetimes.org/02b/w02bp1.htm [crimetimes.org]
      http://www.bhsi.org/stats.htm [bhsi.org]
      http://enhs.umn.edu/current/6120/bicycle/index.html [umn.edu]

    • by The Spoonman ( 634311 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:35PM (#30739740) Homepage
      Stop being a bunch of wussies!

      I see someone just finished their copy of How To Win Friends and Influence People.

      Seriously, kids today have to wear helmets just to ride a bike

      Bicycle helmets reduce the severity of head injuries in an accident by 88%, so what's your point?

      have some pediatrician putting them on powerful Autism medication if they don't start talking at just the right time

      My daughter is 20 months old. Her "best friend" is the same age. My daughter has a huge vocabulary already, her friend doesn't speak at all. The friend was taken to her pediatrician, who FIRST tested to make sure she wasn't deaf. She was then sent to a child psychologist to determine her mental facilities. At that point, she was put into a speech therapy program where she has been taught sign language in order to communicate. That, BTW, is the standard protocol used when a child hasn't started speaking at an appropriate time. Is it true that some pediatricians will resort to medicinal treatments first? Sure, but they are the extreme exception not the norm. Your statement is blatent fear-mongering with no factual basis.

      are diagnosed with Asperger's the second they show the least bit of shyness

      Pure bullshit.

      are taught by teachers who scream "AHDHD--Drug him up!" the first time they act out in class

      You must be a farmer, 'cause you're just full of bullshit. First of all, ADHD (you'd think someone who wants to come off as intelligent would have no problem spelling an ACRONYM!) is a very real issue. As someone who has it, my first response to ADHD deniers is to tell you to fuck off. My second is to lambaste you for stupid statements like the above. Teachers have no say in if a child is placed on drugs. Teachers will refer students who are consistently poor performers, not those who simply "act out" once. They're then tested to ensure there are no underlying impediments to learning and if there are, they're treated. I'll break out the important point you're choosing to overlook:

      Medicinal treatments for learning disorders are prescribed so that all children, regardless of ability, are given the chance to learn the same as those who do not have the disability.

      and come home to parents who think that a child molester is hanging out on ever street corner just waiting to kidnap their kid. *They're* not the ones who are screwed up, it's the adults around them that are screwed up.

      On this, we can agree that the chance of a child being kidnapped is less than their chance of being killed in a terrorist attack (which is fairly close to nil itself). That being said, the percentage of parents who spend any real mental effort worrying about such things is even smaller. Yes, as a parent, I've used the resources on the Internet to find out what kinds of sex offenders are close by, but don't check regularly.

      JUST LET THEM BE KIDS, for Christ sake! Stop acting like there is something wrong with them because they're not perfect, or act differently than you expect, or make stupid mistakes.

      The problem, dear dimwit, is that you have made up a world in which all parents spend all of their time doting on their children and completely missed the point of the article that these same children ARE dealing with significant issues. Your desire to simply ignore the problem in the hopes it will go away is the ignorant position.

      BTW, forgot to ask the obvious question: how many kids do you have? I have a feeling it won't be a positive number. People will inane opinions like yours never have kids.

      A kid shouldn't be taking medication for anything less than a serious physical problem.

      Because of ignorant dimwits like you spreading bullshit like this, the kids in the article are suffering with issues that can easily be treated both by talk therapy and medicine. Your whole point is "parents are ignorant and don't know how to raise their kids", but really it's you who has absolutely no idea what they're talking about.
    • I think you good a good point. I think I have a good counterpoint. I also think the best point is somewhere in between: figuring out where your point applies, where mine applies, and where some compromise or alternative applies.

      Stop being a bunch of wussies!

      Agreed---to the extent that this is the right solution. Some people need to stop being wussies.

      A kid shouldn't be taking medication for anything less than a serious physical problem. You don't give a kid powerful psychotropic drugs just because they're rebellious or shy.

      That's an interesting opinion. Is that based on any evidence regarding the safety and effectiveness of the "null" treatment plan? Does it depend on what the psychiatric diagnosis is?


  • And? (Score:5, Informative)

    by FredFredrickson ( 1177871 ) * on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:35AM (#30736778) Homepage Journal
    I'd say a majority of adults I've met don't exactly lead healthy balanced lives either. Most of the stress and anxiety that I see in people I meet is due to their inability to deal with issues and conflicts in their every day lives in a logically and emotionally balanced way (intentionality).

    A lot of people spend their entire lives without ever understanding the idea of being intentional, instead of a victim to what appears to be a random array of emotions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:41AM (#30736852)

    With myself (sample size of one) I find that I have a near constant level of neurosis (which does thankfully decline overall as I get older). When things are going badly in some area, I can direct my dwelling towards real anxieties that actually exist. Dealing with relationship, earning a buck, dealing with family etc. When everything is going well I find some new unrealistic area to direct those anxieties.

    I suspect in the good old days, people were too busy trying to feed themselves to worry about needless shit. In this age of relative abundance and leisure time, we have much more time to devote to our neurotic navel gazing. And our self survey results reflect that.

  • by ruiner13 ( 527499 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:42AM (#30736872) Homepage
    Well, what do they expect when they remove all competition from a kid's life? I've seen parents that refuse to let their kids participate in anything competitive, for fear that if they should lose their child's dreams will be permanently shattered. All this leads to is the kid thinking they really can do anything, when the actual fact is that everyone has limitations in some form, and in a competitive world, sometimes you lose. I assume this is what generates the majority of this "unrealistic optimism". Coddling children and not allowing them to experience real situations will not prepare them for the real world.
    • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:16AM (#30737406) Journal
      While searching for a job, I've discovered that many companies desire this "unrealistic optimism." A recruiter I was using sent me a list of questions the company was going to ask me, and "mistakenly" included the correct answers. Questions like, "How important is it for you to be the best?" have answers listed as, "Very important to be the best, not just 'do my best.'" Another question asks, "Are you a perfectionist?" and then lists, "must say yes," as the correct answer.

      I think kids have such "unrealistic optimism" because it's desired in today's society. Unfortunately for me, I found college to be a very humbling experience, and I fear these kids will too.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:42AM (#30736874) Journal
    Before you hop all over this like we love to, keep in mind that the article does a pretty good job of representing the skeptical side of this study:

    Though the study, released Monday, does not provide a definitive correlation, Twenge and mental health professionals speculate that a popular culture increasingly focused on the external - from wealth to looks and status - has contributed to the uptick in mental health issues.

    And also:

    The study is not without its skeptics, among them Richard Shadick, a psychologist who directs the counsellingcentre at Pace University in New York. He says, for instance, that the sample data weren't necessarily representative of all college students. (Many who answered the MMPI questionnaire were students in introductory psychology courses at four-year institutions.)

    I have a cute anecdote about a friend who graduated with a psychology degree and left her job as an assistant to become a grade school teacher because most of the psychologists at the Manhattan practice had more psychological problems than their patients.

    Emphasis mine. Now, another interesting thing about Jean Twenge is that the books she writes aren't universally accepted by her peers [nytimes.com]:

    "Generation Me" inspired a slew of articles in the popular press with headlines like "It’s all about me," "Superflagilistic, Extra Egotistic" and "Big Babies: Think the Boomers are self-absorbed? Wait until you meet their kids."

    Ms. Twenge is working on another book with W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia [nytimes.com], this one tentatively called "The Narcissism Epidemic."

    However, some scholars argue that a spike in selfishness among young people is, like the story of Narcissus, a myth.

    "It’s like a cottage industry of putting them down and complaining about them and whining about why they don’t grow up," said Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a developmental psychologist, referring to young Americans. Mr. Arnett, the author of "Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens through the Twenties" (2004, Oxford University Press), has written a critique of Ms. Twenge’s book, which is to be published in the American Journal of Psychology.

    Granted you could claim that this is just one example of two camps infighting in a field that plagues even physics and hard sciences but I think it's important to realize that this study might be a little self serving. Personally I share two concerns. The first being similar to Shadick's in that I'm not sure how these two studies were normalized samples and the second questioning if we have any idea what the 'norm' is for these 'diseases.' How subjective is this test and would a variance of 1% to 6% for depression be unrealistic if we knew that it's been as high as 10% at other points in time between 1938 and 2007?

    The curmudgeon in me wants to chalk this up to kids having it too good these days. No polio to worry about, no eight hour shifts to support the family and more information swarming them. A lot of today's youth have the luxury of being diagnosed with hypomania. Now I know that there are serious cases of depression and always have been ... but sometimes I encounter a youth who says, "My boyfriend just broke up with me and now I sit in my room and listen to depressing music." And they (or their over protective parents) think they need medication for that. They don't. Sounds to me like they need to be picking rock and bailing hay to help take their mind off that. We're overmedicated as it is. If Ms. Twenge continues to push this idea it might just get worse. How many people read news of this study and though "maybe my kid needs to see a psychologist for depression?" It's hard to look past this and assume the motives for this study are pure.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:53AM (#30737046)

    I know that this data spanned several decades, but one has to wonder what the impact of "teen angst", complete with its own social class (Jock, Geek, "Emo") has now, against a survey like this?

    Yes, large amounts of data through several decades is nice, but when it's now "popular" to act like a Tim Burton character or a "death for true love" torn "Vampire", I can't help but take this data with a grain of salt.

  • by ProppaT ( 557551 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:55AM (#30737090) Homepage

    Welcome to the year 2000 (er, 2010) and meet your new friend Information Anxiety. I'm 30 years old and I feel it. I constantly feel like I need to keep up with news, this and that, hobbies and interests that are fueled by easy access to information on the internet, social networking, friends, internet friends, real life friends that I only really see on the internet these days. Now compound all of that into a teenager's mind along with high school pressures, school work, trying to find themselves, hormones and being awkward, the opposite sex (or even harder yet, maybe the same sex), etc.

    100 years ago, our main concerns were food, shelter, and family. These are second thoughts for many these days. I recently quit social networking for half a year and it was one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

  • by JRHelgeson ( 576325 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:56AM (#30737108) Homepage Journal

    Let's see; when you give kids a trophy for just showing up to the game, and high school kids make 'A' grades for minimal effort... kids today are conditioned to believe that life is easy, and they are 'super-duper'. This is the post accomplishment era we live in. Their actual test scores are among the lowest of civilized nations, yet their confidence levels are among the highest. What does this tell us? They don't know anything but they FEEL really good about it. This is what we get when the school system focuses on the importance of feeling rather than the importance of achieving. When kids discover that the real world doesn't care how you FEEL, it is rather anxiety inducing. The employer stance has necessarily become one of: I DON'T CARE how you feel, can you do the job or not?" Pay is based upon accomplishment and achievement, not on feelings.

    • Yeah, right... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:41AM (#30737766) Homepage Journal

      Pay is based on accomplishment and achievements...

      No, it is not.

      My investment banker counterpart earns about twice what an engineer does, and does even less work. True, the world does not care about your feelings, but the salary you receive is largely dependent on:

      1. The position you work (or career field), and
      2. How well you can sell yourself to your employer.

      The first is usually a matter of education, the second, largely a matter of confidence.

      One thing that negotiating a higher salary has taught me is that companies will always attempt to hire at the lowest possible salary. Being able to do a job 10 times better than the other guy doesn't mean a thing (wrt salary) if you don't exhibit confidence during the interview. Confidence goes a long way toward convincing an employer that you are worth more than the average guy.

      I realize people *should* be paid in proportion to their ability and work ethic, but that's not how the real world works.

  • by simp ( 25997 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:57AM (#30737122)

    Does anybody have the numbers for EU and Asia? For some reason I'm not seeing the same stories here in the EU. Personally I think that in the US there is a real drive to get everybody who shows a bit of a problem directly on heavy medication instead of dealing with it while they grow up.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:57AM (#30737124) Homepage

    When poorer kids in the 1930's started having problems in school, they were labeled as "stupid" or "lazy", given D's and F's, and that was it. Now, a school counselor is brought in and a much more specific and medically accurate label for their problem and recommend a treatment for them.

    For wealthier kids, it seems to be partially a way of ensuring that their kid does well in school and other activities. A lot of these parents are going to start thinking something is medically wrong if the kid's grades start slipping into the B-/C range, and will find a counselor who will tell them just that and create a treatment. A diagnosed mental illness can turn a C student into a B+/A student due to extra time on exams, special help on projects, and so forth, as well as drugs that improve concentration (among other things).

    The upside of this pattern is that more kids who do have real mental illnesses are getting treated properly and are able to handle their schoolwork better, rather than being simply dismissed as bad students. The downside is that you now have a large population of kids (and adults for that matter) who are wandering around drugged and a much narrower understanding of what behavior is "normal" enough to be *not* indicative of a mental illness.

  • by SlappyBastard ( 961143 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:02AM (#30737212) Homepage
    We just now have entire industries backed by science to prove it! Haha!
  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:02AM (#30737216) Homepage Journal

    dealt with things like world war i, world war ii, the bubonic plague, the american revolution... etc.

    all with less media resources, lower quality nutrition (we don't have lower quality nutrition these days, we have TOO MUCH nutrition), a worse set of ideologies, lower socioeconomic status, etc.

    whatever stresses today's youth are going through, its fucking easy in comparison stresses previous generations have faced

    get over it, grow the fuck up. sorry you're daily video game hours or facebook/ twitter diddling hours has been reduced. i think you'll find the ability to deal somewhere deep in your rich bounty of character. pffffffft

    • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:09AM (#30737304) Homepage

      I have wondered if less "real" problems (such as not having to struggle to sustain your existence) manifests itself in more depression, anxiety, etc.

      When you are busy just surviving you have less time to dwell on your problems.

      Just a theory. Not that mental issues didn't exist in the past.

      I know from my own experience and of some close to me, when you are sitting around thinking and are prone to these issues that's not a good thing.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:11AM (#30737348) Journal

    I'd agree, although the excessive narcissism is probably the more significant root cause.

    Since the 1960s (Surprised? No.) the emphasis on social promotion, 'feeling good about yourself', rewards for non-achievement, and a slippery sort of moral relativism all have combined to leave our children emotionally retarded, and frankly incapable of dealing with reality.

    Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, and evolution is fucking painful. Deadly, in fact. Remove the pain from growing up, and you end up with emotionally undeveloped people, with no ability to cope with hardship, no capacity to comprehend the shitty things life is going to inevitably hand them, and (seemingly) very little resilience to survive.

    Go back and read Generation X. His book describes the glimmerings of the future. I'm 42 - a real GenX'er (turned 13 in 1980, graduated from college in 1990), and I see the beginnings of it in myself and my demographic. Lack of ambition, ennui, a juvenile inability to focus, as well as a difficulty being happy with much of anything. I'd attribute it in myself to a lack of hardship and challenge, and believe me it's a bastard to cope with on a day to day basis.

    And yes, I'm aware that I'm essentially yelling "Get off my lawn!" but when I look at teens today, it's terrifying how basically ignorant they are, and how amazingly short their attention spans are. They have a facility with electronics that amazes me, and I thought myself a fairly gadget-oriented guy. I regard them as "ignorant" because they don't know basic facts of geography, history, or culture - but then if one is permanently connected (as this twittering generation pretty much assumes) does one really need to store facts in their wetware? I think its necessary to have a basis of knowledge to understand the things going on around us, and to be usefully participatory adults, but then I'm old, I guess.

    Oh, by the way, ROCK THE VOTE!! Ha ha ha /cry. And we thought we're screwed already....

  • "Orchid Children" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RevWaldo ( 1186281 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:28AM (#30737582)
    An interesting article from The Atlantic [theatlantic.com] discusses a new view of children with genetic dispositions to "flawed" personality traits, such as ADHD. Much of it is based on a long-term study of a captive colony of rhesus monkeys.

    In the barest of nutshells: while many children are like dandelions, and could survive and even prosper in any environment (poor, lousy parents, bad schools, etc.), others are like orchids. Raised in the wrong environment they become screw-ups. Raised in the right environment they thrive, and the traits that are considered flaws become strengths, even allowing them success beyond their dandelion brethren.

    A good read even if you think they're wrong. One nice takeaway from the rhesus monkey study: in the long run, bullies never win.
  • by quintin3265 ( 1552941 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:38AM (#30737708)

    A lot of people here seem to be of the opinion that mental illness is something that is simply being overdiagnosed; people can "get over it," that medications are evil, and that kids should be kids. Obviously, these people have never been mentally ill.

    Sure, it is true that today's kids' lives are nothing like the brutal, short, backbreaking existences that were lived by our predecessors, who in 1850 worked over 60 hours a week and barely managed to stay alive for 30 or 40 years. On the other hand, if you've ever had a manic or hypomanic episode, you will know that mania is not a positive state of mind. Mania is one of the worst possible states of existing, only barely better than death and far worse than depression. Imagine not being able to keep a thought in your head for more than 1 second at a time. Imagine how, one day you can go from being considered for a promotion at your office to being fired a month later because you can no longer comprehend programming concepts or remember what was going on a few minutes ago. Imagine it becoming impossible to function with people because you have lost the ability to determine what is the appropriate thing to say in social situations, and so as a result you say nothing.

    Most importantly of all, imagine that nobody believes that anything is wrong, that doctor after doctor can't come up with any diagnosis for years, and when you try to get help for yourself people hang up on you because you can't follow the conversation to understand what's being talked about. Imagine that sometimes you are so unable to think that you have trouble determining whether someone is speaking to you or not. Imagine that the rest of the world just keeps going on while you see no reason to keep living through such hell if nobody can figure out what's wrong with you. So you just sit in front of the TV night after night while the images go by too fast to process. Mania is perhaps the most depressing thing that one can experience. This explanation of mania being a sense of extreme well-being is wrong and needs to be better communicated in the mainstream sources, who tend to simplify these diseases as some kind of "excess happiness." There is no happiness in mania.

    Of course there is an increase in the incidence of these diseases among people living today. In the past, why would someone want to continue living if their new life was as a stupid and uncontrollable shell of their former selves? The only solution back then was suicide. While suicide is not a good choice today because there are many treatments available, it may be shocking to hear that death certainly would be better than living like that with no hope for a cure. Is it so far-fetched to say that the diseases were less widespread because people culled themselves?

    Stating that kids should go off drugs because of the "evil pharmaceutical companies" is naive. The scientific literature does not adequately describe these diseases, and probably never could. Everyone has felt pain, so it's easy to describe the treatment for a headache. But while there are some very smart people here, those who are not ill are simply not able to comprehend what mental illness really is, and should not be offering comments about whether suffers should undergo treatment.

  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @12:01PM (#30738086)

    One of the things I find most annoying about Slashdot is the knee-jerk reflex some people have to respond to any unflattering comparison of the present day to some time in the past with, "Get off my lawn!" Yet strangely, when such mockery is genuinely appropriate in response to most of the comments here, it's nowhere to be seen.

    I don't know what parallel universe most of the commenters are coming from -- whether most of them are childless or just get their version of reality from FOX News, I don't know -- but the environment in which my teenager finds herself is highly competitive, not remotely cocooning or coddling, and in many ways significantly more stressful than the one I grew up in. And I don't have her on any medication.

    The thing that strikes me about today's kids is how obsessively schedule-driven they are. My daughter never seems to actually stop thinking about school or what she has to do next, and most of her friends are the same way. I suspect that this is at least partly responsible for the level of anxiety and depression in kids today. Far from lacking competition and discipline, the environment in which they move seems to have a surfeit of it, at least compared to my teenage experience in the 1980's, which was notoriously manic in its time but seems comparatively relaxed today.

  • by ActusReus ( 1162583 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @12:28PM (#30738578)

    You can't compare "polls" or "studies" from the 1930's to 2010 because definitions and attitudes have changed so dramatically during that timeframe. For Christ's sake... LABATOMIES [wikipedia.org] were still a standard and mainstream mental health practice at that time! Today pretty much anyone who's down in the dumps would say they feel "depressed", and anyone who is high-strung would say they experience "anxiety". Eighty years ago, however, they would simply say they feel "sad", or "nervous". It would be far less likely for them to REPORT such common feelings, and far less likely for the medical butchers of the time to label it as mental illness unless it were truly asylum-worthy.

    It's preposterous to say that depression and anxiety are more prevalent today than during the Great Depression, and the worst war the planet has ever known. The only thing more prevalent today is our willingness to label those states of mind as such.

  • by cenc ( 1310167 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:18PM (#30739476) Homepage

    I am serious. I left the United States in my early 20's for good, and all my mental health problems started going away. I am happy, healthy, less stressed, sleeping good, eating proper food, more successful, and most importantly less paranoid about every little frigen thing around me. It has take years however to repair the damage caused by living in the U.S., but I continue to see it in Americans that leave the United States for good all the time vs. those that are just on vacation. They go through a decompression process that progressively that typically takes at least a couple of years for them to "normalize" when they are adults. When kids move out before the teenage years are over, they are well adjusted, happy, more engaged in the World around them.

    American culture is really really one of the sickest cultures I have seen anywhere in the World, and most of the damage is done in the teenage years. Any parent that sends their kids to a U.S. school, should be arrested for child abuse.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser