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February 1980

The Midtown Manhattan Longitudinal Study vs 'The Mental Paradise Lost' DoctrineA Controversy Joined

Author Affiliations

From the Faculty of Medicine, Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, Columbia University, New York.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(2):209-221. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780150099011

• The "Mental Paradise Lost" school in psychiatry propounds a historical trend of deteriorating mental health in the general population, particularly among women, and especially in big cities. The socio-epidemiological Midtown Manhattan Longitudinal Study, covering four decade-of-birth cohorts born since 1895, has yielded data that challenge those claims. To explain serendipitous findings of intergeneration differences between Midtown men and women on measures of subjective well-being, a theory is advanced based on changes in the status and roles of women since the late Victorian era. Possible policy implications for preventive psychiatry are discussed, and further follow-up research outlined for the specialty field of socio-psychiatric history.