Teenagers struck by depression ‘epidemic’


The number of middle-class teenage girls suffering from anxiety or depression has surged in the past decade with more than a third now experiencing symptoms of “psychological distress”.

A government study into the mental wellbeing of 30,000 teenagers, seen by The Times, found that girls were more than twice as likely as boys to suffer symptoms of mental ill health.

The proportion of girls with anxiety or depression has risen by 10 per cent in a decade. Those from more affluent and better-educated families had worse symptoms than those from less-advantaged backgrounds.

Experts said that the study provided the clearest…



I was not able to read the article due to the paywall at The Times website. However, I think I found the study being discussed.

[quote=National Children’s Bureau]‘Psychological distress’ is used as a measure of emotional and mental wellbeing, and may be defined as a state of emotional suffering characterised by symptoms of depression and anxiety (Drapeau and others 2011). Girls aged 14–15 recorded higher levels of psychological distress than boys in both 2005 and 2014, with average levels of distress in girls’ increasing over the period (Lessof and others 2016.The proportion of girls deemed ’ psychologically distressed’ (indicating potential clinical significance) also increased (to 37% in 2014, compared with 15% of boys).


I haven’t read the study, but I wanted to keep this discussion going, just in case others had trouble reading The Times article.


Social media enables bullying even well outside school hours.


Did they think of reasons for this? Personally, esp. given the socio-economic bracket, there’s a lot of stress on teens these days with the pressure to do all this crazy stuff to get into -]college/-] a “good” college. We may recall the suicide epidemic in Japan due to pressure related to college entry.

And to be honest, I think we coddle our kids in a nervous way which leads them to feel like they must be very fragile, and unskilled at coping.


I believe that depression and anxiety cross over racial and socioeconomic boundaries. Perhaps the reason we are seeing more diagnoses of depression and anxiety is because of the advancements that have been made in psychological medicine.

For years and years I wondered what was wrong with me. I always felt like I was being smothered with a horrible blanket made of thorns. I would become frightened by anything that didn’t go according to what “my plan” was and I would end up in paralyzing fear, literally trembling and hyperventilating. I lived like this since I was a child. Finally, in my 40s, I was diagnosed with major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. After many attempts, my doctor finally found a combination of medications that help me live a normal life and function in society.

Please don’t take depression and anxiety as a “fad”, it is a deep nightmare that I pray none of you ever experience. I still battle with anxiety caused chest pains that mimic a heart attack, drain my energy and ruin my day. I try very hard to battle these and other symptoms. My medications give me a leg up but some days they just don’t work as well as they should. sigh

To make a long story short, depression and anxiety affect people from all walks of life. :console:


Yes, I agree. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was 11-12 or so and I really did lack coping skills. I think that’s part of the addiction epidemic too - people self-medicate.

I do think it’s not necessarily new - highly sensitive people have been encouraged for a long time to squish down their feelings and to “just get over” things, without much help in *how *to do so. One thing that bugs me about a lot of modern treatment plans is that people go right to medication and don’t do much working with the underlying issues. It’s easier just to get a script from your PCP rather than hash things out with a competent therapist.

(Not saying that meds don’t have their place, because they absolutely do, but it’s almost trendy to be on anti-anxiety meds now. But change the way you live? Tell people who are being mean to quit it and follow through? Too scary [and it IS scary! But much more long-term success.])


Anecdotally the struggles with mental illness don’t stop when the teenage years end. The amount of mentally unwell people in the college/university system is staggering. It’s hard to say exactly why this is happening. Yes, I suppose some of it is just a medical system more sensitive to incidents of depression. Beyond that though, I suspect depression really is becoming more common. Between a hyper exposure to all the bad things in the world, the social media inspired illusion that absolutely everyone is doing wonderful things all the time, miserable job prospects, the collapse of meaning in society, a pervasive pessimism about the future, increasing social isolation and separation from God, it doesn’t particularly surprise me that depression might result.


For whatever it’s worth:

There are, indeed, people whose brain chemistry is such that they must receive medication for relief from depression. I have no doubt this is inherent to some people.

But on the other hand, I think a lot of depression is circumstantial. One would think, for example, that people who are fairly high on the economic scale would have little to be anxious about, but it’s also possible they are the most vulnerable because there are expectations of them that they have no good way to see in their futures. One might wonder, too, whether years of anxiety might actually exacerbate a preexisting serotonin uptake problem, for example.

An NP friend of mine did, for her thesis, a study of overweight teenage girls. She advertised and personally solicited a number of them for her study. Interestingly, perhaps, most of them didn’t actually have anxiety problems having to do with their weight as such, but more a sense of anger at the society which incessantly told them “something is wrong” with them, including health providers.

But least anxious of all were the farm girls, all of whom had goal-directed “chores” and projects. One problem with being a teenager now is that it’s difficult to formulate long term goals in an exceedingly complex world. Let’s say one is a moderately talented teenager whose mom is a corporate lawyer working on complex contracts and dad is an animal nutritionist for a mega-agribusiness whose job is to ensure a sufficient balance of nutrients at the lowest possible price for the company’s customers.

The teenager might be utterly adrift in that kind of world. Adult activities and goals are mentally inaccessible or incomprehensible and have no relationship at all to what the teenager herself is doing in her life. Her only “known” goals are getting good grades and being as popular as she can manage, neither of which have a clear relationship to her future life.

Even if one is subject to depression, one can get at least something of a “lift” by learning to operate the tractor and raise hogs for the fair. It’s right there in front of the teenager, very literal, and capable not only of accomplishment, but meaningful conversation with the adult world. What is the lawyer-mom going to talk about with her teenage daughter concerning the intricacies of the Uniform Commercial Code?

I’m not advocating agriculture for the whole populace, but I do think there is a disconnectedness between children and their parents’ activities now, that leave the child “out in the blue” regarding goals, current activity, and predictions of the future. I don’t wonder that anxiety levels have increased. Again, recognizing that depression and anxiety are not the same things, but if drugs can permanently alter the neurons in the brain, then I don’t see why constant anxiety and personal confusion couldn’t do the very same thing, affecting brain function.


We shouldn’t discount the continuing secularization and increased atheism/agnosticism among our culture, especially among the young. The nihilism inherent in atheism will have tremendously awful consequences for youth who are trying to find purpose and meaning in their lives.


You said what I was going to say (ETA: in reply to the two posters after me), only you said it so well and more comprehensively! Thank you :slight_smile:


I certainly think there’s something to this. On a different thread, I pointed to the existence of a tiny, Catholic, classical school for boys which combines studies with life on a farm. It’s far more reasonably priced than I expected, but boys who can’t pay their way essentially do work-study. It seems geared for helping boys discern a monastic vocation, but what’s the harm in learning basic studies and picking up some animal husbandry or farming on the side? I would have benefited from something like that. I have a friend who grew up in the Mennonite community, and she and her family are some of the humblest, most hard-working, and least whiny people I know.


I really do feel for young people nowadays. I really do.

This might seem off topic, but it isn’t, quite. I have long said the only thing I know about psychology is what I gleaned from literature. But sometimes I think literature is an excellent teacher.

When I was in college, I was sort of amazed in reading novels from the 18th and 19th centuries. I was astonished at the anxiety among the middle and upper classes and the sense of directionlessness so prevalent among the characters.

After all, my own parents went from pretty low on the economic scale to the “petit bourgeoisie”, and that was, to them, entirely sufficient. And so it was to me. I didn’t expect to ever become wealthy, though I realized it was possible. I didn’t expect to marry wealth. I had my chance in graduate school with the “rich girlfriend” (and was she ever!) whom I, myself, rejected because I found her values off-putting. I expected to marry the daughter of a “petit bourgeois” or less, and did so; a nurse, the daughter of a hardware salesman.

Nobody really thought otherwise about their lives, and we all knew what our future lives would be like, more or less. And we knew what the adult world was like. My wife worked very young as a “candy striper” and knew what healthcare was. I did all kinds of work as a kid and as a young man, and knew what it was. I could also see what adults did, and found almost nothing in the adult world off-putting or displeasing. (Well, the super-wealthy girlfriend’s world was not pleasing to me at all, because at that level life was a sort of elegant idleness.)

Getting back to the 18th and 19th Century novels. It was surprising to me when, as a callow youth “up from the country” to learn how utterly stratified English society was in that bygone era and how much people shaped their lives around that class system. If one had class pretensions but little money, one still maintained a sort of threadbare imitation of the life of those more fortunate, and “fortunate marriages” were everything, even among the already wealthy and well-regarded. Legacy hunting was rife, and nobody knew how to do anything else because they were never exposed to anything else.

A couple of decades or so after graduating, I came to realize American society was slowly ossifying into a modern version of the same sort of thing. Yes, there were tremendous opportunities to do well economically and socially, but as with British society of old, nobody knew any kind of life other than the one in which they grew up, but didn’t know how to generate it themselves. “Getting on” is no longer a matter of collecting rent from the croppies or drawing on one’s legacy from a Scottish banker as of old, but of getting out into a world about which one essentially knew nothing, hoping to learn “on the fly” how to “maintain place”.

And weirdly, I recently read that, among college students, it is deemed important to know the level of one’s girlfriend student debts as well as future prospects occupationally. Can we really, then, think we have outgrown “Pride and Prejudice”?

I don’t think people think of it in those terms, but I think the anxiety is little different from what it was 200 years ago when the old Brit Lit novels were written. We did, however, and in this country, have a society that was more or less level and in which young people got very early exposure to what it took to make a life. And I think knowing what life was like fairly early on made all kinds of life more acceptable and the pursuit of it less stressful. I am inclined to think that moment in our history is slipping away.

Thank you for your patience.


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