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The Deadly Toll of High Anxiety

Back in September, writer Samantha Parent Walravens discussed the pressure college applications and admissions place on today’s students in her story “High Anxiety.” Walravens interviewed students, parents, college counselors and private tutors about the ever-rising demands placed on young scholars and touched on some of the repercussions, as well. For its December cover story the Atlantic delves into these consequences and highlights an alarming trend in another Bay Area community with “The Silicon Valley Suicides.” The article builds upon many of the topics raised in “High Anxiety” including the fact that we underestimate the stress placed on kids in wealthy communities. From the Atlantic, “‘We assume that because [these kids] have money and a good education, everything is fine,’ Suniya Luthar (Foundation Professor of Psychology at the Arizona State University, and Professor Emerita at Columbia University's Teachers College) says. And in the long run, money and education will protect them. But in adolescence, the dangers posed by the culture of affluence can be “quite potent.” That doesn’t mean rich kids are more likely to kill themselves. Studies on youth suicide have generally turned up few differences among social classes. But it does mean many are deeply suffering.” She goes on to say, “One of the two major causes of distress, Luthar found, was the ‘pressure to excel at multiple academic and extracurricular pursuits.’ In one study, for example, kids were asked to choose and rank their parents’ top five values, from a list of 10. Half of the values were related to achievement (‘attend a good college,’ ‘make a lot of money,’ ‘excel academically’), and the other half to well-being and personal character (‘are honest,’ ‘are kind to others,’ ‘are generally happy with yourself and your life’). When the kids chose a greater number of achievement-related goals, that usually correlated with personal troubles, Luthar said.” To get the whole picture, take a look at both articles.

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