In adults we know that having the ability to feel a range of emotions to be a good thing, it allows us to better appreciate the world around us. Yes, even feeling bad can actually be good for you in the long term. We tend to want feelings and experiences that make us feel better (like relaxing instead of working) and we send those feelings to our offspring. We want our kids to also have a pleasurable life instead of a hard one, but should we? New research is showing that we really need boys to feel a ride range of emotions.
If having lots of different emotions is good for our health as adults, then shouldn’t we be fostering the experience of a diverse range of emotions in young children as well? And yet the research suggests we are not fostering emotional diversity from a young age, especially when it comes to raising young boys. As early as infancy, boys’ and girls’ emotional landscape differs. One study reported that when watching an infant being startled by a jack-in-the-box toy, adults who were told the infant was a boy versus a girl were more likely to perceive the infant as experiencing anger, regardless of whether the infant was actually a boy. Gender differences in the diversity of emotion words parents use in conversations with young boys and girls also emerge. Another studyexamining conversations between mothers and young children, mothers interacting with daughters employ emotion vocabulary of greater density and depth, whereas conversations with sons tended to focus primarily on a single emotion—you guessed it, anger. Regardless of whether gender differences in adult behavior arise from conscious or unconscious psychological processes, one thing is clear: boys grow up in a world inhabited by a narrower range of emotions, one in which their experiences of anger are noticed, inferred, and potentially even cultivated. This leaves other emotions—particularly the more vulnerable emotions—sorely ignored or missing in their growing minds.
Mental illness is perceived by too many people to be the fault of those who suffer from it. This stigma has led people to not disclose that they are need in help, let alone seek it when needed. New research has revealed that mental illness is incredibly common and, more importantly, that it can be temporary for some people. Of course, it’s not good news that mental illness impacts us but it is good that we can move the conversation around the issue to be more meaningful and helpful to those that suffer from it.
If you ever develop a psychological disorder, many assume you will have it for life. The newest research suggests, for the most common psychological complaints, this is simply not true. “A substantial component of what we describe as disorder is often short-lived, of lesser severity or self-limiting,” says John Horwood, a psychiatric epidemiologist and director of the longitudinal Christchurch Health and Development Study in New Zealand. (Horwood has found that close to 85 percent of the Christchurch study members develop a diagnosable mental illness by midlife).
This may be a useful message to spread. According to Jason Siegel, a professor of social psychology at Claremont Graduate University, people tend to be more sympathetic and helpful when they believe that a friend or co-worker’s health problems are temporary.
Mental health is important for everybody and painting it can be challenging for many people. As with most preventive practises it’s wise to invest in it. The benefits of keeping society in good mental health is a benefit for everybody.
Where relevant statistics have been available, a huge trove of data has been collected over the past 15 years on how these mental health issues translate into healthcare costs and disability claims expenses. While nations that don’t really recognize or provide for mental health issues don’t have to deal with the aforementioned costs, the data also consistently shows that mental health problems result in quantifiable losses in productivity and profitability due to days skipped, employee turnover, and even just zoning out or slowing down while at work. Estimates from the early 2000s claim an office could lose up to six days of labor per month to absenteeism, and 31 days per month due to presenteeism (being there but working at a low speed), problems up to three times more likely to occur in mentally unhealthy workers than in other groups. In the U.S., mental health disorders contribute to job loss or the inability to find a job for over three million workers per year, and chronic unemployment seems even more common the more severe one’s mental health issues become.