The young and rich are seeking help for anxiety and depression at twice the rate of their poorer peers, according to recent research.
Australian mental health experts say the disorders are endemic among the young, especially the affluent. Their observations follow Columbia University research that found depression and anxiety occur at twice the national US average in the children of families with an annual income of more than $170,000.
Lina Ricciardelli, associate professor of psychology at Deakin University said high status can be a risk factor in anxiety and depression.
”These families should be the happiest families in the universe, shouldn’t they?” she said. ”The old adage that money doesn’t buy you happiness is true. In fact, it might even buy you a few problems.”
The US research found affluent children showed high rates of alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders and criminal activity such as stealing from their parents or peers.
A theory behind the rate of anxiety and depression is the pressure high achieving parents put on their children.
Director of psychological services at the Black Dog Institute, Vijaya Manicavasagar, said the phenomenon was endemic in the developed world.
”If the parents are focused on outcomes, then the kids are going to feel that their needs aren’t being met,” she said. ”Some kids could withdraw into their shell and become depressed or anxious. Other kids would rebel against it.”
The chief executive of youth mental health group Generation Next, Ramesh Manocha, said wealthy families were often headed by parents who were consumed by their jobs.
”Affluent young people have access to alcohol, more access to illicit drugs and more time and knowledge about how to misuse the resources available to them.”
A survey of 15,000 people aged 14 to 19 released by Mission Australia last week found one of their biggest concerns was performing poorly in school and limiting future prospects.
This article first appeared on ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 8 December 2013.