Approximately 36 million (35% of the total population of 1025 million) in the country, consists of youth (between 15-24 years as per WHO definition). In 1981, the youth population was approximately 125 million and 171 million at the beginning of 1991. It was over 230 million at the beginning of 2001. Keeping in view the important role which the youth can play towards national development as well as the emerging health problems of the youth, WHO declared 1985 as the International Youth Year. In the last few years, due to socio-economic and political factors, there have been increasing health problems among the youth: unemployment, suicide, alcoholism, sex-related offences and general adjustment problems in the youth. Today, the youth in India form one of the most vulnerable groups, who on the one hand are expected to be the leaders to determine the destiny of India, and on the other hand, are an exploited and confused group.
A. Role and Value Conflicts.
India has moved from the traditional stable society, mostly agrarian, to a highly developed, industrial and space society. The traditional joint cohesive family has changed to a micro and in cohesive family. There is a change from rural to urban living. In such a society, where the youth came from various strata of the society, with diverse cultures, religions, economic status, language and life styles, the youth experience difficulty in adaptation to the changing roles and value systems. This results in alienation, withdrawal, interpersonal relationship difficulties, depression and even suicidal behaviors. The problem gets aggravated when the parents come from different religions and cultures and expect their children to be mature and develop their own value systems and roles without appropriately guiding them. What are the core value systems of the Indian Culture? Who are the role models in India in different spheres of life?
B. Pressures for Performance in Schools and Colleges.
With growth in the youth population and limited opportunities for admission in schools and colleges, and specifically in professional courses, the youth are under great pressure to perform. The previous academic standards of first class and second class are hardly adequate in modern India. The parents, right from the nursery level, make higher demands on their children to study hard and get good marks or ranks. The admission fees at various levels, both in public and private institutions have increased considerably which makes a heavy economic burden to the parents. Having made such payments, the parents create guilt feelings in the children as "bad boys", "bad girls", and, "irresponsible children". Such demands from the parents and the society serve as stresses upon the youth. India has maximum number of rich people in the world. Aspiration levels of the youth have increased. What is success? What is the process of achieving success?
C. Career Decision and Unemployment.
Unemployment in all sections in India is increasing, particularly in the higher educated groups. The inflation rate is also increasing. To cope up with the economic demands of life, the youth experience a conflict between economic survival in a competitive society vis-a-vise pursuit of inner human interests and services to the society. A high percentage of youth, after graduation at Bachelor’s level or at post-graduation levels in engineering, medicine, law, nursing, and other disciplines remain unemployed or are under-employed and under-paid. It has been observed that one year of unemployment reduces the life expectancy by five years. Hypertension, cardiac problems, psychoneurosis, depression, suicide are rising among youth as also other behaviors including joining anti-social groups such as terrorists, naxalites etc. Alcoholism, drug addiction, smoking, and rash driving behaviors have increased. These behaviors are to take revenge against the society which has made the youth develop low self-esteem due to unemployment or not being able to be a productive member of the society. The suicide rate in the high school going children has been increasing steadily. It is estimated that 67.2% of the youth are unemployed. As compared with the general population, incidence of psychiatric problems is much higher among youth (12-15% as compared with 5% among general population): the youth are under great pressure to make a success in life, to prove themselves to their parents and the society, and yet the opportunities are limited.
D. Emotional and Sexual Adjustment.
Youth is a period of life which is heightened in its emotional aspects. The sexual drive is highest at this time of life, which the youth need to be able to control and sublimate through socially approvable behaviors. This is a period where right interaction with the opposite sex is learned. It has been estimated that reproductive health problems are steeply rising - teenage marriage and pregnancy, teenage pregnancy outside marriage, sexually transmitted diseases (2/3rd of STD problem is estimated to be affecting the youth); AIDS is reported to be a critical problem among the youth in major metropolitan cities and drug addicts; high rates of anemia in female adolescents after menarche. Accidents are also steeply rising - (about 15 to 20,000 accident deaths and 15-20,000 permanent handicaps in youth every year which is projected to increase to 30,000 deaths and an equal number of handicaps every year by 2000); suicide (15-20,000 suicidal deaths every year by youth and 15-20 lakh attempted suicides); smoking, alcohol and drug abuse 10% of male non-student youth were estimated to be smokers). The youth do not know where to go and seek medical and counseling help for their reproductive health problems.
E. Coping with Pressures of Living.
The youth today is face with much greater pressures of coping with living as compared with their parents. In most cases they have to move away from their parents to urban cities, some of them even settling in foreign countries. Housing, transport, medical services, number of children, care of the children, education of the children are some of the issues facing the youth before marriage. Lack of social/familial support and guidance lays great personal responsibility on the youth to evolve their own life styles to successfully adapt to the society, keeping in view the social and family norms and expectations. Many a youth do not wish to conform to the social and familial norms and they wish to live in the society with unconventional value systems such as remaining single; living with opposite sex without marriage; marrying someone of the different religious, cultural, and social background; deciding not to have any children or having one or two children; both the husband and the wife working outside the house and leaving the children with the ‘baby-sitters’; husband and wife working and living in different cities, etc.
F. Pressures of Dowry.
Many young girls feel that they are an economic burden on parents and commit suicide. The girls are also exploited by the in-laws to ask for continuing favours from their parents. This results in emotional conflict and psychiatric problems in the female youth.