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Today’s youth may be surrounded by technological wizardry, but are they mentally healthy or flourishing?

We know some of them are clearly in an unhappy state. It’s estimated that two of every 10 children and youth will have had some form of mental illness and one in 10 children will have some episode of depression before their 14th birthday. But does the absence of mental illness suggest mental “healthiness?”

To answer these questions, researchers looked at data collected on more than 1,200 youth between the ages of 12-18.

They found that more youth (about one half) are moderately mentally healthy than are “flourishing” or mentally healthy (about 40 percent) , whereas a small portion are not mentally healthy and are languishing (about 6 percent). Not surprisingly, the study shows that young people between the ages of 12-14 (middle school) are flourishing the most, while the mental health in youth ages 15–18 is moderate. There appears to be about a 10 percent loss of flourishing between middle school and high school.

That’s unfortunate since the research also strongly implies that those young people who are flourishing “had the fewest depressive symptoms and conduct problems, and the highest levels of global self-concept, self-determination, closeness to other people, and school integration.” Conversely, young people who were considered “languishing” had the highest number of depressive symptoms and conduct problems.

The question is — what are we doing to evaluate whether or not a young person entering high school is more or less susceptible to the apparent “slippage” of his or her mental health? Can we prevent or retard this phenomenon?

Source: Mental Health in Adolescence: Is America’s Youth Flourishing? Keyes, Corey L. M. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol 76(3), Jul 2006. pp. 395-402.

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