Breakdown in Relationships with Family, Friends Is Top Factor in Dramatic Decline in Mental Wellbeing, Survey Finds

Having close friends and good relationships with family is essential for good mental wellbeing, a new report indicates.

Pensive young woman

Young adults today are less likely to confide in their friends or ask them for help, raising their risk of experiencing mental health problems.

Results point to a need for a dramatically different approach to mental health challenges than what is available in the current mental health system.

Those with poor family relationships and no close friends are ten times more likely to suffer from significant mental health challenges than those with many close family bonds and friendships.”

— Mental State of the World Report, Sapien Labs

WASHINGTON, DC, US, April 19, 2023/ — A new survey has found that a breakdown in social connections, especially among young adults, is a key contributor to the mental health crisis being reported in the U.S. and other countries. The results show that those who lack close family relationships and friendships are 10 times more likely to experience mental health challenges.

The global survey found that family relationships are increasingly deteriorating worldwide, with young adults half as likely to have close family ties as their grandparents’ generation. The younger generations are also less likely to confide in their friends or ask them for help.

The findings of the global survey, published in the annual “Mental State of the World Report” by Sapien Labs, were based on responses to an online mental health questionnaire by over 400,000 people in 64 countries, including the U.S., during 2022.

The survey results found no overall improvement in mental wellbeing in 2022 from the two-year decline in mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Younger generations were especially hard hit. At the peak of the pandemic, the survey found that young adults ages 18-24 were five times more likely to be dealing with mental health problems than respondents in their grandparents’ generation.

“This pattern, apparent even prior to the pandemic, represents a sharp reversal of patterns documented prior to 2010, indicating a dramatic decline in mental wellbeing with each younger generation rather than an increase in wellbeing as we age,” according to the report.

The aspect of mental health found to be most associated with this decline is a metric the report calls “social self,” defined as the way people think of themselves and their ability to form and maintain relationships with others. “These data suggest that we have not fully appreciated the profoundly relational nature of the human psyche,” the report states.

The deterioration in this social aspect of life is most evident in young adults, who are much more likely to have poor adult family relationships and three times more likely to not get along with their families at all compared to their grandparents’ generation.

“Poignantly, those with poor family relationships and no close friends are ten times more likely to suffer from significant mental health challenges than those with many close family bonds and friendships,” according to the report.

Building relationships with family and friends and making other social connections to restore mental wellbeing is in sharp contrast to the current mental health system’s focus on assigning psychiatric diagnoses to people with mental health challenges, often followed by the prescribing of psychiatric drugs. Some 77 million Americans currently take at least one psychiatric drug, including more than 6 million infants to teens aged 0 to 17 years — and still the mental health crisis continues.

The report adds to the growing demand for a post-psychiatry approach to mental health. “It’s imperative that we better understand the characteristics that are most important to mental wellbeing,” the report says. Social connections are proving to be key to that wellbeing.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) continues to raise public awareness of the latest science on psychiatric drugs and practices, so that consumers can make fully informed decisions about their mental health. CCHR supports safe, evidence-based non-drug approaches to mental health.

CCHR also recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of unwanted mental and emotional symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuses and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office
+1 202-349-9267
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CCHR: 50 Years of Fighting for Human Rights

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