Achievement Pressure Linked to Anxiety, Depression

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Schools with high-achieving students are reporting higher than average rates of teen depression and anxiety, a growing body of research shows.

“What we’ve found is that kids in high-achieving, relatively affluent communities are reporting higher levels of substance abuse than inner-city kids and levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms are also commensurate — if not greater,” Suniya Luthar, a professor emerita at Columbia University’s Teachers College told NPR.

Luthar has been studying adolescents for more than 20 years and is the founder of Authentic Conversations, a nonprofit that seeks to help kids build resilience.

In response to the trend, a growing number of communities are working to address the sometimes-harmful effects of achievement culture. In one of those communities — Wilton, Connecticut — a psychologist was hired to survey students at the local high school. The findings? Rates of student anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol use were considerably higher than the national average.

Parents and educators are now pushing for a culture change.

“We have to broaden our definition of success and celebrate more kinds of success,” parent Genevieve Easton told NPR.

Listen to the full story and read the latest edition of the NACAC’s Journal of College Admission to learn how counselors are seeking to reduce achievement for college-bound teens.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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