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’A fine bromance’ among the young
A report in The Guardian from 2014 showed that since records started being kept in 1996 in the UK, the number of young adults sharing a home with their parents rose by 25 per cent. To break that down, 49 per cent of 20-to-24 year-olds were still in the family home, compared to 21 per cent of 25-to-29 year-olds and 8 per cent of 34-year-olds.
The UK is usually a good mirror-image of the Irish context and if the housing crisis continues unchecked, these figures will continue to rise. But the nature of relationships has also changed; whether or not that is a related factor is not known, but all of this is relevant to mental healthcare, particularly for those who deal with a lot of younger people.
Middle-aged adults don’t get off lightly either. A mental health professional friend of mine has noted the increased confusion among middle-aged people as to what they are ‘supposed to be’ in life. Working women, for example, feel pressures to be both the focused and driven professional, while at the same time trying to satisfy the urge to be gentle, nurturing mothers and family members or friends.
Men, on the other hand, have largely lost the ‘bread-winner’ identity and feel pressure to be sensitive and understanding, while also retaining their roles as ‘man of the house’ and predominant mayonnaise jar-opener.
In short, according to my friend, a lot of people are unsure what they are actually supposed to ‘be’ anymore.
But back to the younger generation, who have it all ahead of them: a SAGE journal recently ran a small study on undergraduate heterosexual men and found that these guys felt less ‘judged’ by their male friends than they did by their girlfriends. Another striking difference from when some of us (cough) were young is that these guys find it easier to move past arguments and express their feelings with the other half of the ‘bromance’ than they do with their girlfriends.
The decline over the years of homophobia is welcome (we never hugged each other as young men), as is sexual liberalism (with the usual sexual health precautions, of course, and the message to ‘please sex responsibly’). But these changes in the traditional relationships can be confusing for the younger generation. For those of us who thought life and relationships were complex when we were growing up, we should probably count our blessings.
Shutting down shut-eye
Another finding relating to younger people was even more surprising to me — teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep, it seems. No doubt some of you can empathise.
The good folks at San Diego University in the US have found that figures from 2015 show 40 per cent of adolescents sleep less than seven hours a night; that’s up by 58 per cent on the same studies in 2009. If you suspect an Internet influence at play here, you’re spot-on: Teenagers who spent five hours online each day were 50 per cent more likely to be sleep-deprived, compared to those who spend just an hour a day on the Internet.
Research published in Sleep Medicine also seems to show that the light wavelengths from smartphones, laptops and tablets disrupt our natural circadian rhythm. This has only become an issue in the past 10 years, when smartphone/tablet use began to reach the epidemic proportion it’s at today.
So how did doctors ever get through the day or night before the era of mobile phones? That would be thanks to Al Gross, who invented the pager for medical professionals, which was first used in the Jewish Hospital in New York around 1950. No doubt this has saved countless lives, but I’m equally sure there were times when you felt like throwing yours under a truck.
In that context, how did we ever manage to survive, work and play before smartphones? There is a certain beauty and peace to just switching the damn things off. The definition and pixel resolution of real-life is absolutely amazing.
Thanks to the reader who imparted this little gag to finish off this issue’s offering.
A man calls the desk in a busy hospital ward and enquires about the status of a patient there. “What’s the patient’s name please?”, the nurse asks. “It’s Mick Murphy, he was admitted two days ago,” the caller informs her.
The nurse tells the caller: “Ah yes, Mr Murphy is doing very well. His blood pressure has returned to normal, his tests all came back negative for any major illness, he will be taken off the heart monitor later this afternoon and he has been eating well. If he continues to improve, he will be discharged tomorrow.”
The man gushes, “thank you, that’s wonderful news!”
“My pleasure — are you a family member?” asks the nurse.
The caller replies: “No, this is Mick Murphy in room 302, the doctor never tells me a bloody thing.”