This past weekend, I presented at a Parenting Conference on Strengths-Based Approaches to parenting. At the conference, a new film, The Race to Nowhere, was screened.The movie brought up a number of pertinent issues regarding the educational system in the United States…
The creation of high degrees of chronic stress in all ages of students (but not all students) due to excessive homework demands.
The excessive homework load seems to be largely due to curriculum which has been pushed down to lower and lower grade, often to the point where the academic requirements are mismatched with the developmental stage of the student.
The well being and happiness of students are not considered relevant in the current educational system.
The current system puts students into a constant forward-looking race to get to the next stage of education. For instance, sixth graders are looking at which foreign language classes to take to get into college; 7th & 8th graders are focused on what to do now to get into the advanced track classes in high school; many high school students are continually focused on what they can do in terms of extracurriculars and AP grades to get into the ‘right’ colleges.
Once in college, students are finding they never learned how to think critically on their own. Rather they were taught to regurgitate facts to do well on standardized tests which assess only a fraction of the whole child’s abilities and skills.
At some point, many of these students are running headlong into a period of purposelessness and some are even dropping out of college due to depression, anxiety and hopelessness. If you are interested in finding out more about the movie, check out their site at RaceToNowhere.com.
Today, I came across a new study out of Penn State which shows a link between adolescent stress, depression and obesity. Below is a review on the study borrowed from a fantastic psychology site PsychCentral.com.
By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on February 25, 2010
Obesity is a disturbing worldwide trend. In fact, researchers say the effects are so pervasive that unless the issue is controlled, children born today will not live longer than their parents.
A new research finding provides insight on how a mental health issue may trigger obesity among adolescents. In the study, researchers discovered depression raises stress hormone levels in adolescent boys and girls. And, among girls, the stress hormones may lead to obesity.
Accordingly, early treatment of depression could help reduce stress and control obesity.
Cortisol, a hormone, regulates various metabolic functions in the body and is released as a reaction to stress. Researchers have long known that depression and cortisol are related to obesity, but they had not figured out the exact biological mechanism.
Although it is not clear why high cortisol reactions translate into obesity only for girls, scientists believe it may be due to physiological and behavioral differences (in girls, estrogen release and stress eating) in the way the two genders cope with anxiety.
The implications are to start treating depression early because we know that depression, cortisol and obesity are related in adults, said Susman.
If depression were to be treated earlier, she noted, it could help reduce the level of cortisol, and thereby help reduce obesity.
We know stress is a critical factor in many mental and physical health problems, said Susman.
We are putting together the biology of stress, emotions and a clinical disorder to better understand a major public health problem.
Susman and her colleagues Lorah D. Dorn, professor of pediatrics, Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center, and Samantha Dockray, postdoctoral fellow, University College London, used a child behavior checklist to assess 111 boys and girls ages 8 to 13 for symptoms of depression.
Next they measured the childrens obesity and the level of cortisol in their saliva before and after various stress tests.
Statistical analyses of the data suggest that depression is associated with spikes in cortisol levels for boys and girls after the stress tests, but higher cortisol reactions to stress are associated with obesity only in girls. The team reported its findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
In these children, it was mainly the peak in cortisol that was related to obesity, Susman explained. It was how they reacted to an immediate stress.
Source: Penn State University
For full article, click here.
Have a wonderful and stress-free week!
All the best,
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology Coach
Author of the award-winning book Guide To Self:
The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought Guide To Self, Inc.
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