Friday, April 12, 2013

Evidence of America's deteriorating mental health

The high prevalence of mental illness in the United States isn’t only because we’ve gotten better at detecting mental illness. More of us are mentally ill than in previous generations, and our mental illness is manifesting at earlier points in our lives. One study supporting this explanation took the scores on a measure of anxiety of children with psychological problems in 1957 and compared them with the scores of today’s average child. Today’s children—not specifically those identified as having psychological problems, as were the 1957 children—are more anxious than those in previous generations.

Another study compared cohorts of American adults on the personality trait of neuroticism, which indicates emotional reactivity and is associated with anxiety. Americans scored higher on neuroticism in 1993 than they did in 1963, suggesting that as a population we are becoming more anxious. Another study compared the level of narcissism among cohorts of American college students between 1982 and 2006 and found that more recent cohorts are more narcissistic.

An additional study supports the explanation that more people are diagnosed with mental illness because more of us have mental illness: The more recently an American is born, the more likely he or she is to develop a psychological disorder. Collectively, this line of research indicates that more is going on than simply better detection of mental illness.
--Robin Rosenberg, Slate, on reverse progress