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February 1980

The Midtown Manhattan Longitudinal Study vs 'The Mental Paradise Lost' Doctrine: A 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.

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