Day 21: Youth, Mental Health & Dinner
Brian and I had a telling exchange over a weary-uncertain dinner last night. Dinner was certain--grilled chicken, broccolo, basil-tomato-salad and (mostly for him), German mushroom spaetzle. Both of us were weary. We're into week-two of painters in our living spaces, and we were unsure whether they were coming back to finish the touches left undone. "What do you think of the seemingly increased appearance of mental health issues in young adults we know?" he asked. The exchange that followed was what was telling for me.
He'd actually asked me this the day before. I’d let the musing yesterday be rhetorical, because I didn't want to tread into the waters of what immediately arose for me. I do this fairly regularly--listen and nod at his ponderings aloud--and it's a pattern that seems to work for us. He likes to ponder aloud. I like to walk in silence together.
At the second pondering, I fessed up a bit more. "I actually thought of this yesterday when you asked, but I chose to let it be rhetorical. I didn't figure you'd be much interested in what I had to say." He looked at me expectantly, waiting. "I'm curious about the connection between our notoriously industrialized, high-sugar, high-carb food supply and human beings who have grown up with really poor nutritional guidance." I paused, reading his reaction. "I'm not saying there is a connection, of course, but in my own body-experience, I know there is. When I'm on a higher carb/higher sugar diet, I get a bit more unsteady emotionally and find myself in stories of all kinds that have little to do with those around me."
He smiled. "That is NOT what I thought you would say...at ALL.”
"What did you think I'd say?" I asked, smiling and laughing a bit.
"I figured you'd blame it on the Church somehow."
I laughed outright. He and I have travelled so very far in so many ways...and yet the old stories have such a hold, still.
We simmered along in a light dinner conversation, musing aloud, asking about studies done on this, tending to one another's weariness, sensitivities. I felt a visceral pleasure that had nothing to do with the small bites of mushroom spaetzle I decided to sample. Neither of us reacted to the "blame the Church" meme between us, nor the "industrial sugar complex" meme, which is actually more recent. We had a delightful meal, if increasingly sad for so many of the young people in our lives who are struggling with mental health challenges, coping as best they can (but not as we might wish they would).
And then I decided to pursue Google-Scholar to see what I might find. If anyone's interested: a meta-analysis of other observational studies does suggest a relationship between high sugar consumption and moderately higher risks of depression in today's youth. A study of Chinese junior high students simply argues a correlation between dietary intake and mental health.
There you go.