Are Students More Stressed Now Than During Great Depression?

Next time your grandparents bust out that “walked to school uphill in the snow” line, you can let them know that your generation has its problems too—and there’s a growing body of research to back that up.

A study led by researchers at five different universities nationwide have concluded that youth today are more stressed than students their same age who were studied during the The Great Depression. 

Of the nearly 80,000 students surveyed,  five times as many students surpassed thresholds in one or more behavioral health categories, compared with those in the 1930's. Researchers noticed considerable increases in many different categories but higher scores were noted in areas dealing with anxiety and depression.

"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," Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the study's lead author, told USA Today. "The next question is: What do we do about it?'"

Twenge previously documented the influence of pop culture pressures on young people's mental health in her book "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before."

Some experts say such high expectations for today's teenagers are a recipe for disappointment. Meanwhile, they also note some well-meaning but overprotective parents have left their children with very few real-world coping skills, whether that means doing their own budget or confronting teachers or professors on their own.

Sarah Ann Slater, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Miami, says she feels pressure to be financially successful.  "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," says Slater.

"I don't remember it being this hard," said a mother from northern New Jersey, whose 15-year-old daughter is currently being treated for depression. She asked not to be identified to respect her daughter's privacy.

"We all wanted to be popular, but there wasn't this emphasis on being perfect and being super skinny," she said. "In addition, it's 'How much do your parents make?'

"I'd like to think that's not relevant, but I can't imagine that doesn't play a role."

MSNBC conducted a poll following the release of this research regarding the expectations put on today's youth. Over 70% of the people who voted said that, yes, there were external pressures to be wealthy, look perfect, and be successful.  What do you think?

Source: USA Today


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