Some research has suggested an increase in depression and anxiety among children and adolescents over the last few decades. But are children really getting gloomier and more anxious or is the increase down to improved awareness and better diagnosis? A team of researchers led by Stephan Collishaw from Cardiff University compared two groups of 16- and 17-year-olds who filled out the same assessment tool in 1986 and 2006. In 1986 4,524 children and 7,120 parents filled out the assessment tool and in 2006 719 adolescents and 734 parents completed it. The study found that girls and their parents reported more emotional difficulties in 2006 than in 1986 and boys' parents did too. Twice as many young people reported frequent feelings of depression and anxiety in 2006 as in 1986. Some symptoms were more prevalent in 2006 than in 1986 such as worry, irritability and fatigue while others - loss of enjoyment and worthlessness - stayed the same. Social class, family breakdown and ethnicity all had no effect on children's increasing gloom and anxiety.
Collishaw, Stephan ... [et al] - Trends in adolescent emotional problems in England: a comparison of two national cohorts twenty years apart Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry August 2010, 51(8), 885-894