If kids seem more stressed today, it may be because they are. A fresh analysis of nearly 300 studies finds that typical schoolchildren and college students in the 1980s reported more anxiety than did child psychiatric patients in the 1950s. In other words, kids who were diagnosed as suffering from mental disorders in the 1950s are less anxious than average kids are today.
Healthy children and college students "perceive the world as more dangerous," says Jean M. Twenge, a post-doctoral fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and author of the study. "Anxiety is all about one's reaction to stress."
Measurable changes in the social fabric are helping fuel childhood angst, Twenge reports. Social support and connectedness have decreased significantly, due in part to rising divorce rates, lower participation in community activities and an increased number of people living alone. Reported trust in others also has declined significantly from the 1950s to the 1990s.
At the same time, environmental threats -- violent crime, nuclear war and diseases like AIDS -- loom larger for youngsters and college students.
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