Home Health Controversial study claims mental illness is ‘catching’… amid new data showing 1 in 9 children now diagnosed with ADHD

Controversial study claims mental illness is ‘catching’… amid new data showing 1 in 9 children now diagnosed with ADHD

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A new study from the University of Helsinki found that people who had a classmate with a mental disorder were nine percent more likely to develop one themselves.

Mental illnesses are not caused by communicable viruses like the flu, but a new study suggests they could still be spreading among teenagers.

People who shared a ninth-grade classroom with someone diagnosed with a mental illness were nine percent more likely to develop the same illness at some point in the future, the study by University of Helsinki psychologists found.

Additionally, if someone had several classmates with a mental illness, they were 18 percent more likely to develop an illness of their own than those who did not have classmates with a mental illness.

But many other experts say mental illnesses are not contagious; Instead, they blame the increase on factors such as the prevalence of social media and a greater focus on academic achievement.

“These increases are significant, especially as there is a notable gap in mental health care services around the world,” Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt, a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa who was not involved in the study, told DailyMail.com. investigation.

A new study from the University of Helsinki found that people who had a classmate with a mental disorder were nine percent more likely to develop one themselves.

The researchers caution that their findings simply show that there could be a link between these variables, and do not prove that mental illness can spread among adolescents.

The study is just the latest controversial topic in psychology, known as social contagion.

Social contagion is the idea that people are more likely to develop diseases (whether they see their friends have them), a particularly potent concept among teenagers.

In a country where rates of depression among teenagers are skyrocketing, some point to this phenomenon as the cause.

The Pew Research Center It estimated that there was a 59 percent increase in the number of teenagers experiencing depression between 2007 and 2017.

Approximately 5 million adolescents had a depressive episode in 2021, representing about 20 percent of all 12- to 17-year-olds in the country. the NIH reported. About one in nine children has been diagnosed with ADHD, according to a recent CDC report.

The psychological theory came to light in 2021, when girls around the world claimed they were developing symptoms of Tourette syndrome after seeing TikTok creators suffering from the neurological condition that causes people to make involuntary movements or sounds.

Many were quick to blame social contagion.

Anti-trans activists also often exploit this idea to invalidate young trans adults.

But this has been flatly debunked by multiple articles – the most recent of which was published by Stanford Psychiatrists in 2023.

Studies of social contagion are often flawed, Dr. Ezra Golberstein, a professor of health policy at the University of Minnesota, wrote in a paper. topic review while at the University of Michigan.

This is because studies generally cannot rule out the effect that a teenager’s environment and decision-making have on their mental health.

For example, a person with depression might be more likely to be friends with someone with depression simply because they have similar tendencies. In that case, it could appear that the couple influenced each other, when both were going to develop the condition regardless of the scenario in which they found themselves.

“People choose where they live and work, and with whom they interact, and they may share characteristics with others in their social network that lead to similar outcomes,” Dr. Golberstein wrote.

Considering these shortcomings by reviewing previous studies, Dr. Golberstein and his colleagues concluded that there was evidence that mental health could be “moderately contagious.”

But it’s probably less common and less influential than people think, he wrote.

This new study, led by scientists at the University of Helsinki, attempted to address some of these shortcomings.

Instead of studying groups of friends, they looked at the effect that classmates, with whom young people are randomly assigned to spend a lot of time, have on each other’s mental health.

The study, which was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatryanalyzed 713,800 Finns who were born between 1985 and 1987.

Even after taking into account factors such as income, parental mental health conditions and location, the researchers found a correlation that could suggest that mental illness could spread among peers.


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This was particularly applicable to conditions such as anxiety and depression, but was not as clear for other mental disorders such as schizophrenia.

Co-rumination is a psychological term that describes the common practice of repeating and complaining about your problems over and over again.

Multiple studies have shown that even when controlling for other factors, people who co-ruminate with their friends are more likely to feel more depressed. This, studies have concluded, can spread.

Co-rumination “may serve as a mechanism in the dramatic increase in depression observed during adolescence, particularly among teenage girls,” Dr. Lindsay B Stone, a psychologist at Georgia Southern University, wrote in the article. a study on the phenomenon.

Another reason teens might be vulnerable to contagion is because more education about mental illness could encourage impressionable children to view everyday stressors through a medical lens, the authors wrote.

Dr. Vaillancourt said the study was “well done” and supports the idea she, and many have long held, that social diffusion could be contributing to the increase in adolescents with mental problems.

Psychologists who treat illnesses that have long been considered potentially “contagious,” such as eating disorders, keep this concept in mind when treating adolescents, Dr. Vaillancourt said.

However, it may be important for doctors treating minors for other conditions to also consider it, he told this website: “It will be important to carefully examine how increased mental health awareness influences the extent and presentation of mental disorders “.

One of the ways to combat this problem is to make sure that mental health awareness campaigns are clear about what is a medical condition and what is a normal reaction to stress, according to study author Christian Hakulinen, a psychologist at the University of Helsinki. he told New Scientist.

“We have to be careful not to try too hard and think that normal reactions are somehow abnormal behavior,” he said.

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