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Why is anxiety spiking in young people but not older adults?
A new study shows that anxiety has been rapidly increasing among young adults in the U.S. from 2008 to 2018.
- The study examined self-reported data on anxiety provided by American adults ages 18 and older from 2008 to 2018.
- Anxiety among adults 18 to 25 nearly doubled in that time period, but remained stable for adults 50 and older.
- It's still unclear what's causing increased anxiety in young people, but social media, economic uncertainty and unhealthy lifestyle may play a part.
Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting an estimated 18.1 percent of the population. But the condition doesn't affect all groups equally. Over the past decade, studies have consistently shown that teenagers and young adults are the most likely to suffer from anxiety, and they often report conditions like depression along with it.
Now, a new study brings this disparity into sharper focus, showing that anxiety in adults ages 18 to 25 increased rapidly from 2008 to 2018, but remained stable for adults 50 and older.
The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which measured anxiety by asking respondents, "How often did you feel nervous during the past 30 days?" The researchers categorized respondents into groups based on factors like age, sex, race, educational attainment, and marital status.
The sharpest uptick occurred among young adults, whose self-reported anxiety nearly doubled from 7.97 percent in 2008 to 14.66 percent in 2018.
Increases in anxiety from 2008 to 2018 based on age group.
Goodwin et al.
"Anxiety is most common and has increased most rapidly among young adults," the researchers wrote. "Anxious temperament and subclinical anxiety earlier in life is associated with increased risk of subsequent onset of anxiety disorders, depression, substance use disorders and physical health problems. Young adulthood is the key period of vulnerability for the onset of these conditions."
What's also striking is that anxiety increased in almost all groups, though not quite equally. Besides young adults, the most rapid increases were among:
- Unmarried adults (from 7.25 percent in 2008 to 11.48 percent in 2018)
- Adults with "some" college education (5.16 percent to 7.47 percent)
- White adults (4.98 percent to 7.06 percent)
- Adults with annual income below $20,000 (8.69 percent to 11.9 percent)
Why are young people so anxious?
The new study didn't focus on the root causes of anxiety, but the researchers noted that the "explosion of social media" may play a part. After all, there seem to be strong links between social media use and mental health problems.
A study published by the National Institutes of Health notes:
"Numerous studies found that greater daily time spent on social media, increased frequency of SMU, and multiple platform use were associated with both depression and anxiety. Research suggests that increased social media consumption may lead to negative online experiences, fewer in-person social interactions, and decreased ability to sustain attention."
But social media is just one part of the conversation about rising anxiety in young people. Researchers and social critics have proposed other potential contributors, including parents who over-coddle their children, the increasing atomization of society, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, Americans' pursuit of extrinsic versus intrinsic goals, and economic uncertainty, to name a few.
In short: Explaining the 21st-century anxiety boom is complicated, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anxiety and COVID-19
It's still unclear how the pandemic is affecting mental health in the U.S., but a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides some clues.
In June, 5,400 American adults completed an online survey about mental health, suicidal ideation, and drug use. The survey found that 41 percent of all respondents reported symptoms of at least one mental health condition, like anxiety or depression. But there were big differences between groups.
Like the results of the new study, the CDC survey found that 63 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, just 8 percent of adults 65 and older reported symptoms.
"Identification of populations at increased risk for psychological distress and unhealthy coping can inform policies to address health inequity, including increasing access to resources for clinical diagnoses and treatment options," the CDC researchers wrote.
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A cave in France contains man’s earliest-known structures that had to be built by Neanderthals who were believed to be incapable of such things.
In a French cave deep underground, scientists have discovered what appear to be 176,000-year-old man-made structures. That's 150,000 years earlier than any that have been discovered anywhere before. And they could only have been built by Neanderthals, people who were never before considered capable of such a thing.
Water may be far more abundant on the lunar surface than previously thought.
- Scientists have long thought that water exists on the lunar surface, but it wasn't until 2018 that ice was first discovered on the moon.
- A study published Monday used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy to confirm the presence of molecular water..
- A second study suggests that shadowy regions on the lunar surface may also contain more ice than previously thought.
Credits: NASA/Daniel Rutter<p>Still, it's not as if the moon is dripping wet. The observations suggest that a cubic meter of the lunar surface (in the Clavius crater site, at least) contains water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million. That's roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water. In comparison, the same plot of land in the Sahara desert contains about 100 times more water.</p><p>But a second study suggests other parts of the lunar surface also contain water — and potentially lots of it. Also publishing their findings in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1198-9#_blank" target="_blank">Nature Astronomy</a> on Monday, the researchers used the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study "cold traps" near the moon's polar regions. These areas of the lunar surface are permanently covered in shadows. In fact, about 0.15 percent of the lunar surface is permanently shadowed, and it's here that water could remain frozen for millions of years.</p><p>Some of these permanently shadowed regions are huge, extending more than a kilometer wide. But others span just 1 cm. These smaller "micro cold traps" are much more abundant than previously thought, and they're spread out across more regions of the lunar surface, according to the new research.</p>
Credit: dottedyeti via AdobeStock<p>Still, the second study didn't confirm that ice is embedded in micro cold traps. But if there is, it would mean that water would be much more accessible to astronauts, considering they wouldn't have to travel into deep, shadowy craters to extract water.</p><p>Greater accessibility to water would not only make it easier for astronauts to get drinking water, but could also enable them to generate rocket fuel and power.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers," said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in the advanced exploration systems division for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, in a statement. "If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries."</p>