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Today's Youth Have More Mental Health Issue Then Generations Before


A new study confirms what many counselors all over college campuses throughout the nation have suspected; more students are struggling with mental health issues.

The conclusions came from responses to a psychological questionnaire that was used from as far back as 1938. Lead author of the study and San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge says, "It's another piece of the puzzle — that yes, this does seem to be a problem, that there are more young people who report anxiety and depression. The next question is: What do we do about it?"

Twenge as well as other mental health professionals hypothesize that it is possible that the popular culture is focused on the external with an emphasis on wealth to looks and status and believes that has something to do with the increased numbers, however, the study cannot provide a definitive correlation.

Twenge and a team of researchers at five universities analyzed the responses of 77,576 high school and college students who took the took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI from 1938 through 2007.

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What they discovered was that five times as many students in 2007 surpassed thresholds in one or more mental health issues such as anxiety and depression compared with those who did so in 1938. Lead author Twenge said because of taking antidepressants and other psychotropic medications the current numbers may be low.

This could be attributed to several other studies which have captured the growing interest in being rich. In fact, 77 percent of those questioned for UCLA's 2008 national survey of college freshmen saying it was "essential" or "very important" to be financially well off and experts say such high expectations are a recipe for disappointment.

"If you don't have these skills, then it's very normal to become anxious," says Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist. She hopes this study will be a wake-up call to those parents. For example, Sarah Ann Slater is a 21-year-old junior at the University of Miami, says she feels pressure to be financially successful, even when she doesn't want to.

"The unrealistic feelings that are ingrained in us from a young age — that we need to have massive amounts of money to be considered a success — not only lead us to a higher likelihood of feeling inadequate, anxious or depressed, but also make us think that the only value in getting an education is to make a lot of money, which is the wrong way to look at it.”

Twenge is aware that far more research is needed to pinpoint the reason behind the increase but believes the study is a good starting point.