nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

What's Going On With Studies That Say We're All Sick?

 
What should we do about all these surveys and studies that show we're all messed up?  More illness, more trauma, more inability to cope by ourselves...Where is this headed?

Today alone, there were two news reports about alarming trends.

CDC: Majority of U.S. adults had troubled childhoods. (USA Today, Dec 20) "Almost 60% of American adults say they had difficult childhoods featuring abusive or troubled family members or parents who were absent due to separation or divorce, federal health officials report."

Mental Health Needs Seen Growing at Colleges. (NY Times, Dec 19) "National surveys show that nearly half of students who visit college and university counseling centers have serious mental illness, double the rate of a decade ago."

The two obvious explanations are (1) we really are going down the tubes as a nation, or (2) we "medicalize" much more of the everyday crises we're exposed to, and tell people they need help instead of saying, "You can overcome this."

Or it could be a mix.  We certainly call many more things a disease these days.  By contrast, some think there's more stress in our culture than there used to be--divorce, drugs, STDs, etc.

Then there's the really cynical view that all these surveys are conducted to get money for organizations who want to make a living from the public trough, through grants and taxpayer funds.  Many groups with principled titles are just fronts for political lobbying.  Academics need money to do more research;  a quick survey that says your area of study needs funding is a proven method for getting cash.

But even granting that these studies and surveys represent a meaningful interpretation of trends in mental and physical health, what does it portend for the future?  If college student mental health needs have doubled, and resources are inadequate to stem the tide (back when I was in college there were no resources.  Everybody was stressed by grades, but managed to cope), then where will we be in another few decades?   Will every single student need their own private therapist  to get through the day?

I don't think we're assessing issues like these properly, nor are we making headway with them.  Something revolutionary--and cultural--needs to take place, rather than viewing more and more people as sick and throwing more and more money at the problem.

Doc D
 
 

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