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Report: Teenagers Who Participate in the Arts Are More Likely to Become Depressed

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While researchers frequently tout the benefits of arts education for children and youths of all ages — often providing ammo for campaigns seeking to safeguard funding for arts programs — a new study led by Boston College suggests that teenagers who participate in after-school arts activities like painting, drama, and music are more likely to develop symptoms of depression than their less-artsy peers. The study, BC researchers say, corroborates previous findings that adult artists are more likely to display symptoms of mental illness than non-artists.

“This is not to say that depression is a necessary condition for either a teen or an adult to become an artist, nor are we showing that participating in the arts leads to mental illness,” the study’s leader Laura N. Young, told IBNLive. “However, previous research has revealed higher rates of mental illness symptoms in adult artists. We were interested in whether this association is present earlier in development.”

According to a statement from the college, the study found that in general girls were more likely to take part in extra-curricular arts activities and develop depressive tendencies as a result, but on balance both boys and girls who do so are more depression-prone than students their age who did not participate in the arts. Further widening the jock-artist divide, the study found that the teens least likely to become depressed are those involved exclusively in sports activities.

The study was based on teenage arts participation data from 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 charted in the U.S. Longitudinal Survey of Youth, in which some 2,482 15- and 16-year-old students participated.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Detail from Alex Katz’s “Vincent with Open Mouth,” 1970. Via.)

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Comments

  1. No. “This is not to say that depression is a necessary condition for either a teen or an adult to become an artist, nor are we showing that participating in the arts leads to mental illness,” study researcher Laura N. Young of Boston College explained in a statement. “However, previous research has revealed higher rates of mental illness symptoms in adult artists. We were interested in whether this association is present earlier in development.”

    You story here is claiming that the participants in art related after school activities are more likely “to become” depressed, but you may be confusing correlation with causation. To be clear, there is no causal relationship.

  2. Duh. The problem, whether chicken or egg, is the selling of contempt art academies dogma of art as selfish expression. Creative art is and always has been eradicating the ego, of being a part of more, of the Universal vs the particular, of creating a work that is expressIVE of humanities essence, but now twisted into the cult of individualism as that is far easier to teach and sell degrees by.
    Contempt art has bee about games toys and therapy for fifty years. Duh.

  3. “…the study found that in general girls were more likely to take part in extra-curricular arts activities and develop depressive tendencies as a result…”

    WTF

    Really? The girls’ depression was a RESULT of taking part in extra-cirricular arts activities!???

    If it’s not a sham study then perhaps this suggestion is the result of some poor writing/reporting.

  4. I think this study has validity, but the wrong conclusions are drawn. I don’t think participation in the arts leads to depression. But I do think that teens who are vulnerable to depression in any circumstances are likely to be to drawn to the arts as a means of self expression. The real question is.. without this means of self expression would the teen be worse off or better off?

  5. This is an irresponsible, linear, absurd waste of space that someone just took up; leaving so much room and so many directions to go. What exactly is this ‘writer’ talking about?

    Wasted space.

  6. Yes .. and where is the link to the study at Boston College? This just sucks in the worst way… because people gobble this shit up. Tough to be a parent. We need more responsible writing. This is for damned sure.

  7. I will forgo weighing in on this subject as I’m sure all my thoughts have been or will be covered by others. I WOULD like to state that I am genuinely surprised that you printed this garbage. I thought your standards were higher.

  8. How could anyone pass up the opportunity to perpetuate absurd stereotypes? I’m sure there will be plenty more misleading articles like this one elsewhere because people eat this stuff up.

  9. by Emily Radford

    Ok, no, stop. Expressing yourself through the arts is not what causes the depression. It’s the bullying and kids “involved exclusively in sports activities” that cause it. Yes, there is a huge divide between the two groups, and it’s because the “jocks” don’t want to be associated with the artistic kids. So, in short, BULLYING causes depression for teens who participate in the arts, NOT the arts themselves. Also, I am not blaming athletic kids wholly, not at all. Bullying can come from anywhere, I’m just making my point. Anyway, whatever “study” this is, is false in my opinion.

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