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If you live your life without mental health issues, science says you’re the weird one

Published Feb 7th, 2017 8:00PM EST
mental health
Image: Neil Conway

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Everyone gets the flu, chicken pox, and a broken bone or two by the time they hit 40, and if you don’t you’re in a very small minority that somehow lucked out. Scientists now believe the same is true when it comes to mental health disorders, and that if you happen to make it even half your lifetime without experiencing some type of temporary or chronic mental ailment, you’re actually pretty darn weird.

In a study of 988 individuals, just 171 (roughly 17%) of them claimed to have never experienced depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorder. The research, which was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, revealed that roughly 41% of the respondents had dealt with a mental health issue for at least a short period of time by the time they reached age 38. The other 408 participants were shown to have endured longer lasting battles with mental ailments occurring over several years, and some had also been diagnosed with serious conditions such as bipolar disorder.

The study was conducted over the full lifetimes of the 988 individuals, with a total of 13 assessments taking place between their birth and when they hit age 38. The figures fall largely in line with other long-term mental health surveys, and give more concrete evidence that mental health is something that the vast majority of people struggle with at some point in their lives.

What the research also made clear is that those fortunate enough to have enduring mental health with no history of issues tended to be fairly similar in terms of their overall personalities at a young age. They were very positive as kids, with large social groups, and tended to be more mature than their peers. There was also a link between long-lasting mental stability and individuals whose immediate families had little or no history of diagnosed mental disorders.

So if you ever feel like a weirdo because you’re depressed, anxious, or need to hit up the head doctor from time to time, just remember that you’re actually just like everyone else. For better or worse.