A new study by John Guthman, PhD, director of counseling services at Hofstra University, uncovered more severe depression among college students. In 2009, 41% of students counseled at his college were diagnosed with moderate or severe depression, compared to 34% in 1997. Fewer were suicidal, however, perhaps due to improved services or perhaps because being surrounded by other depressed people makes you feel less alone.
Dr Guthman opines that the reason more students have more severe depressive symptoms is that more of them are being diagnosed with depression before coming to college. Doesn’t that just put off the real question: Why are more kids depressed?
Maybe it’s future shock. In the early 1970s, in his book Future Shock, futurist Alvin Toffler predicted we would soon enter a state of change so rapid that we would flip out and all go crazy.
The accelerated rate of technological and social change will overwhelm people, leaving them disconnected and suffering from ‘shattering stress and disorientation’ – future shocked.
The element of change unique to the 21st century is the loss of nature.
I’ve read several articles suggesting that today’s moms and dad’s worry over the contrast between their own childhood experiences of summers spent outdoors playing with the wired lives of 21st century kids. Writer Richard Louv expands on this thought with an intriguing diagnosis: Nature deficit disorder.
“As children’s connections to nature diminish and the social, psychological, and spiritual implications become apparent, new research shows that nature can offer powerful therapy for such maladies as depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder.” from LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS : SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER
As a primary care doc, I find this idea of a nature deficit disorder fascinating because I believe we can’t be healthy in a completely artificial environment, Yet decade after decade, we continue to celebrate the fabrication of an increasingly unnatural world.
When TV chef and child-health activist Jamie Oliver showed a potatoe and a tomatoe to room full of first graders and asked “Does anyone know what this is?” there was silence. Given kids’ extreme disconnection from all things natural, I am not at all surprised that more kids are sick and depressed than ever before. The cure for this societal depression is not new antidepressants, counseling, or a better Sony Wii. It’s a prescription for a daily dose of nature.