A Maryland youth survey shows a decrease in depression and drug use, but it may not be cause for celebration just yet

June 27 – A youth survey from Maryland came out recently and the results reflect a slight decrease in depression and substance abuse in high school students in the Free State. 

While numbers can certainly be spun, there may be some hope in this report. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “If you look at the long arc, though, of these kinds of studies, the numbers are still alarmingly high when it comes to youth depression, even though year over year at least in Maryland, this does show a slight downturn. What’s interesting is on that substance abuse issue, this is one of those counterintuitive points that you’ll see Jean Twenge, the iGen person and others make, that because kids are not hanging out, they’re not mingling as much as they used to, there’s this whole series of things that have declined. The kids don’t drive as much when they’re 16. They don’t go on dates as much. They don’t have social interactions. Well one of those other side effects is they are not doing things like drinking a beer or experimenting with something like that. On one hand, there’s an argument, well, that’s good, but what Twenge and some of these other researchers will point out there’s actually some downside to that because it’s a reflection of the fact of how isolated these kids are becoming due to social media and their addiction to cell phones and all the other things that are associated with that.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “That’s why I worry about the use of surveys, the overuse of surveys. They only tell you so much, and usually, if they can statistically say something about decreases and increases and it helps whatever situation that’s trying to be promoted, then that’s all you hear, instead of what it looks like over many years, instead of for this short time period? What are the motivations for these changes? What do we understand? I do worry that the public can get misled by the statistical and overuse of such survey results.” 

Barkdoll added, “We should emphasize, these surveys, this is self reporting. So they send these out to the demographic, to the teenagers, to the youth, and these are all just self attestation, that’s how they’ve done these. So again, the fact that they’re reporting less depression, I mean that is good, but I don’t think it’s a cause for any celebration, because historically, it’s still at a very high number.”