In middle school students in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, almost 15 percent of them are suffering from depression, a recent survey has shown.
The survey, conducted by the Nanjing Center for Diseases Prevention and Control over the past few months, found that among 7,161 students in the city's 56 middle schools 14.8 percent of them suffered from depression to some degree or another.
The symptoms of adolescent depression include insomnia, physical tiredness, loss of appetite, low attention span, apathy and little sense of value and happiness an expert with the Center surnamed Li told China Daily on Wednesday.
"If a youngster has suffered from most of these symptoms for more than two weeks we consider them to be suffering from depression," said Li.
He said that their survey methods involved questionnaires and conducting interviews with young people on a wide range of topics. Academic performance and family background were found to be the two most decisive elements in a youngsters' emotional state.
Those confident about their academic performance were more optimistic about their future and those from happy families with parents in stable jobs appeared to be more carefree.
According to the survey 17.1 percent of students in their final year at middle school are depression sufferers and this is 2.3 percent higher than average.
"The pressure of the college entrance exam and concern over their futures are the main reasons for their anxiety," said Li.
Noticeably 16.4 percent of boys surveyed said they were suffering from depression compared to 13 percent of girls. "Boys told us they had many dreams but were upset that in reality they're judged by their exam scores," Li said.
Compared with the 5-10 percent rate among the whole of the Chinese population the high rate of adolescent depression required attention, he said.
However, local educational professionals expressed concerns about the accuracy of the survey.
"It's inevitable that adolescents feel upset as their future is still uncertain and their life attitude is not matured but growing pains will be overcome naturally as kids become adults," Wang Ying, a teacher with No 3 Middle School in Nanjing, told China Daily yesterday. "So to categorize them as depression sufferers in medical terms is inappropriate."
However, Zhou Zhengqiu, a psychology expert with Nanjing Medical University, said yesterday that the lack of attention to the issue is his major concern. "Research shows that most depression sufferers are introverted and don't seek help, and if no one pays attention to them, they might suffer more and harm themselves," he said.
(China Daily June 9, 2006)