Mental illness and modern society

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Mental illness is an example of a problem faced by every country in the world. Regardless of where you go, there will be people dealing with mental illness. But have things gotten worse in modern times? Is there an inherent problem with modern society that is causing an increase in the prevalence of mental illness?


There are a number of reasons that a person could develop a mental illness. Genetic factors are one consideration, although these would be one of the least influential in terms of modern society’s influence. Environmental factors are another, and while they are far from the main cause, they can contribute quite a lot.

Environmental Factors

Things you wouldn’t consider problems at all, or things that may be so commonplace you don’t even notice them anymore, could actually be contributing towards a larger mental health issue. Take our use of technology for example. The type of lights used in our phones prevent our brains from falling asleep, so when we use our phones in bed, we take longer to get to sleep, and don’t sleep as well as we would otherwise. This is just one small, anecdotal example, but disrupted sleep patterns are a growing problem in modern society, and can knock on effects during the day that damage our mental health further.

Diet

Dietary factors are another contributor, albeit a much larger one. What we eat, and what we provide our bodies with, has a huge influence over our mental health both directly and indirectly. A person with a well-rounded, balanced diet is less likely to suffer from problems such as anxiety or depression, but modern society makes it difficult to maintain such a diet. With so many unhealthy but tasty foods available so cheaply, our bodies are not getting the proper nutrients. Further to this, poor diet leads to physical health problems, which in turn have a major damaging effect on the state of our mental health.

Lifestyle

Along with all the wonderful technological advances that modern society has accomplished come a number of negative ones. Things such as alcohol and drugs contribute greatly to the prevalence of mental illness. Multiple studies have shown that there is a two way link between these issues, with the possibility of mental illness leading to substance abuse, and vice versa.

Another major consideration in modern society is the exposure that comes with the internet. Cyber-bullying is an issue that has been in the headlines for several years now, and has been strongly linked to mental illness in young people. The internet opens us up to being harassed at any time, which is a problem by itself. But it also exposes us to other people, which has led to unrealistic beauty standards, expectations that we have thousands of friends, or unfair comparisons between ourselves and other people. All of these can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, worthlessness, isolation, and more.

Mental health has always been one of the trickier areas of science to study, as it is harder to observe, measure, and find links. But we are learning more about it every day, and while it may seem that modern society is contributing greatly to mental illness, it isn’t that simple. Although there are problems that come along with modern society, we also have a lot of solutions. We are getting better at identifying and treating these illnesses, so while some may blame society for these problems, it is also responsible for the solutions.  

David Clarke