Adolescents and Mental Health

Nature vs. Nurture

The Problem

The numbers of teenagers and young adults battling mental health issues such as anxiety disorders and depression are astonishing. In addition to those living with psychological problems, the statistics of youths who have committed or attempted to commit suicide are on a steady incline. If it is possible to pinpoint the causes for the increases in the fraction of the youth population that are affected by mental health ailments then perhaps a solution could be reached. While the problem is sometimes addressed as one of genetics and chemistry, the argument is made that there are societal factors that play a significant role. Exploring this argument a question emerges; In what ways do societal factors contribute to the rise of mental health issues in adolescents and young adults?

The Standpoints


"In the past two decades, genetic factors have been shown to influence the likelihood of a person's developing mood disorders or post-traumatic syndromes in adult life. A study done in 1990 showed that first-degree relatives of a person diagnosed with major depression were two to four times as likely to develop depression themselves as people in the general population” (Mental Disorders).


Schwarz states, “Because their brains are still developing, adolescents are particularly receptive to the positive influences of youth development strategies, social and emotional learning, and behavioral modeling. But adolescents’ developing brains, coupled with hormonal changes, make them more prone to depression and more likely to engage in risky and thrill-seeking behaviors than either younger children or adults. These and other factors underline the importance of meeting the mental, social, and emotional health needs of this age group” (Schwarz).

Nature, Nurture, or Both.

There is some evidence that shows that both nature and nurture are at play when it comes to the current mental state of adolescents across the globe, both societal factors and genetics go hand and hand according to Chris Iliades, MD, he states, “We know that genes aren’t the whole story and that something in the environment must also be involved to trigger a psychiatric problem. So the age-old debate of nature versus nurture goes on. The answer seems to be somewhere in the middle” (Chris Iliades, MD).

Alycia Cardamone