Two new meta-analytic studies involving thousands of children and college students show that anxiety has increased substantially since the 1950’s. In fact, the studies find that anxiety has increased so much that typical schoolchildren during the 1980’s reported more anxiety than child psychiatric patients did during the 1950’s. The findings appear in the December issue of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
“The results of the study suggest that cases of depression will continue to increase in the coming decades, as anxiety tends to predispose people to depression,” says psychologist and study author Jean M. Twenge, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University.
She adds that other implications of the findings suggest that alcohol and drug abuse will continue to be an increasing problem too, because anxiety usually precedes the onset of substance abuse. There are also implications for physical health. “Research has found that anxious people have a higher mortality rate, most likely because anxiety has been linked to higher occurrences of asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease and coronary heart disease,” said Dr. Twenge. About 8 percent of today’s U.S. teens suffer from some type of diagnosed anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.