Risk-taking young drivers at risk of anxiety and depression

Risk-taking young drivers at risk of anxiety and depression

By Charlotte Fantelli

According to a new study, reckless, risk-taking young drivers are more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

Mental health problems have long been linked to risky behaviour in teens. Thanks to the research of scientists from Queensland University of Technology, Australia it now appears we can add dangerous driving to the list of reckless activities linked to mental ill health. Previously we have seen the link between such problems and activities such as having unprotected sex, smoking and binge drinking.

The team asked 761 young novice drivers aged between 17 and 25, to fill out an online questionnaire to assess their psychological distress as well as their driving behaviour. Speeding, cutting up other road users, not wearing a seat belt and driving while talking on a mobile were some of the ‘risky’ behavious identified.

According to the study 8.5 per cent of the increased risky driving behaviour could be attributed to psychological distress.

Bridie Scott-Parker the chief author of the study, said: 'There was a clear link, and a greater link was found for female young novice drivers.' The study found 9.5 per cent of the variance in risky driving could be explained by psychological distress in women compared with 6.7 per cent in men.

Further to the study, there will now be research conducted to see whether the psychological distress comes before the risky behavior and to identify those most at risk.

PhD student Mrs Scott-Parker said the next step would be to see whether psychological stress precedes risky driving.

'I suspect the distress comes first and the risky driving is just another manifestation of that distress,' she said.

Mrs Scott-Parker said until now the relationship between novice risky driving behaviour and psychological distress had not been clearly quantified.

'Identifying at risk individuals is vital,' she said.

Writing in the international journal Injury Prevention, she said young drivers could be screened for 'current psychological distress' and could be targeted with road safety classes as well as counselling.

I personally think we are all guilty of driving differently when we are stressed or under pressure to some extent, it is therefore interesting to me that these stats are so low. It makes sense that those with mental health problems, who have been identified as partaking in other ‘risky’ behaviours, would indeed be likely to have a more reckless attitude towards all aspects of their life, including driving.

Let’s hope this research helps us to think more about the way we manage our urges to take risks, and to identify whether we should drive when we are in a place of psychological distress.

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