Declaration of conflict of interest: The author has no conflicts of interest.
Troubled youth: an island of misery in an ocean of happiness, or the tip of an iceberg of suffering?
Version of Record online: 6 JAN 2011
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd
Early Intervention in Psychiatry
Special Issue: Early Intervention in Youth Mental Health: Papers from the 1st International Youth Mental Health Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 29-30 July 2010
Volume 5, Issue Supplement s1, pages 6–11, February 2011
How to Cite
Eckersley, R. (2011), Troubled youth: an island of misery in an ocean of happiness, or the tip of an iceberg of suffering?. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 5: 6–11. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7893.2010.00233.x
- Issue online: 6 JAN 2011
- Version of Record online: 6 JAN 2011
- Received 7 September 2010; accepted 6 October 2010
- mental health;
- young people
Aim: To critically examine the orthodox view that young people's health and wellbeing are continuing to improve in line with historic trends.
Methods: Transdisciplinary synthesis is used to analyse and integrate a wide range of evidence on young people's health and wellbeing. Synthesis seeks coherence in the overall conceptual picture rather than precision in the empirical detail.
Results: The orthodox view rests mainly on declining mortality among teenagers and young adults, and findings that most say they are healthy, happy and satisfied with life. With health improving for most, the focus of attention is on social inequalities in health. However, mortality rates understate the growing importance of non-fatal, chronic health problems, especially mental illness; self-reported health and happiness are flawed indicators of overall well being. Evidence suggests that rates of mental illness in young people have increased over time, and are higher than in older age groups. Explanatory factors include quite fundamental features of modern societies, which go beyond inequality and disadvantage; trends in these factors predict a deterioration in health and wellbeing.
Conclusion: Contrary to the dominant view that young people have never been healthier, their health and wellbeing may have declined over several generations. Which perspective is right has important implications for understanding and addressing youth mental health problems, implications that go well beyond medical interventions.