Teenage Depression Doubles in Last 10 Years
Updated: Aug 23
"The proportion of teenagers with “significant” symptoms of depression has doubled in twenty years, according to research.
The Youth 19 survey, part of a long-running study of young Kiwis’ health, found 23 per cent of 7890 secondary school students likely had depressive symptoms that affected their daily lives – a marked increased from 2001 when 12 per cent of respondents met that criteria.
Similarly, between 2007 and 2019, rates of “good emotional wellbeing” among teenagers fell from 78 per cent to 69 per cent.
..... Those who attended low decile schools or came from lower-income families were more likely to experience depressive symptoms."
Various reasons are given for the increase, especially among lower-income families. One key factor driving anxiety and depression is overlooked and this is the rather dramatic change in eating habits and of the nutritional quality of the food being consumed.
The "IN Generation" - The Instant Noodle Generation
The IN Generation describes a cohort of youngsters worldwide who are being raised on a depleted diet, best thought of as mostly consisting of instant noodles, rice, cereal and chicken. It is a generation that is depleted of nutrients other than poor-quality fats and oils, a saturation of cheap carbohydrates, generally enough protein, but sadly lacking in trace nutrients.
The poorer the family, the less fresh, nutrient-dense food that is consumed. This includes zinc and other trace minerals.
Zinc, the Masculine Mineral
While there are several minerals that may contribute to anxiety and depression, let's think of just one: zinc (Zn).
Zinc is a mineral for growth and tissue healing. It is needed for brain development and neurotransmitter formation. It is needed for the development of masculine physical characteristics. It is needed for the production of male hormones such as testosterone. Zinc is used by the immune system to fight yeast, viral and fungal infections. It helps regulate taste, smell and appetite.
Zinc provides emotional resilience and fortitude. When deficient we may see timidity, anxiety and withdrawal. Zinc deficiency is associated with autism.
Zinc is known to be a powerful mood stabiliser and a calming mineral.
Very low zinc levels are often associated with emotional instability and with problems of growth and development in children.
Zinc endows the person, man or woman, with heroism, strength and fortitude such as is glorified in the legend of the Roman Empire hero who held off the advancing Etruscan hordes at the last bridge before Rome.
Men and women equally need these properties of emotional fortitude.
Of the many trace minerals we test for, it goes without saying that zinc deficiency is now the universal norm. It is very rare to have a test that shows optimum levels of zinc, especially with young people. I've been watching the trend of declining zinc levels in children for many years and dong so with increasing alarm.
Foods that are high in zinc
Seafood - Oysters, herring
Meats - Beef, lamb and liver (not chicken liver)
Nuts/seeds - Sunflower, pumpkin
Dairy - Cheese
Grains - Wheat germ
What you will gather from this rather limited list is that rice and noodles are not included, nor is chicken. When was the last time you or your children ate liver? Can your family afford oysters and will they eat these anyway?
Wheatgerm is removed from grains unless unprocessed whole grain.
Our depleted soils
And here is the big problem: our soils are depleted and tired, propped up by a mix of chemicals and fertilisers that produce bountiful crops but ones that are depleted beyond the sugar, starch and protein. The main fertiliser applied to soil consists of lime (calcium) and NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and not much else other than Roundup and various pesticides.
If trace minerals are not added to the soil then it won't be in the crops. And guess what is fed to the animals that are raised in cages and feedlots? Nutrient-depleted foods such as corn and wheat. If the meat, the eggs and the milk are from nutrient-depleted animals, or the grains are being consumed such as from a cereal bar, then the person living on these will become nutrient-depleted as well.
I am therefore not in the least bit surprised when I read stories of sky-rocketing levels of anxiety and depression these days.
Other minerals that may affect mood
Calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, copper, iron and manganese.
What are the solutions?
Raise your children to be versatile omnivores. Of all of the things that have allowed human beings to thrive and populate all extremes of the planet, right up there is our ability to make a meal out of whatever is found, even if that is in Antarctica. My advice is to raise your children in such a way that you know they can go anywhere in the world to mix with any culture and enjoy whatever their host serves. There is no greater way to honour your host than to sit with them and enjoy a hearty meal.
Noodles, rice and chicken once a week only. Beef on another day, eggs another, fish the next day, then vegan and so on. All lovingly prepared from fresh, raw ingredients, rather than from a packet.
Eat foods that are known to be high in zinc (assuming they were grown with zinc present in the soil). A good rule of thumb is to seek out sources that are organic, but bear in mind that "organic" does not mean it is rich in trace nutrients. You need to find food that is grown on soil that has had trace nutrients added such as from the addition of humates and seaweed to the soil.
Take a daily zinc supplement. But be aware that taking a lot of one mineral may throw others out of kilter so...
Test your internal trace mineral balance. Then adjust your diet accordingly and take the right balance of trace nutrients as guided by the testing. Repeating the test now and then gives valuable feedback about your success with balancing your trace nutrient needs.
But all of this costs money!
Yes, it does. So the family that can only afford depleted foods such as from rice and flour, soft drinks and chicken end up missing out.
A billion taxpayer dollars is happily spent on subsidising drugs that plaster over the problem but there is nothing in the kitty for helping to provide good food for the poor.
For this, I do not have an easy remedy. The remedy will come from the political level.