THURSDAY, March 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Young Americans may be more vulnerable to depression, distress and suicidal thoughts or attempts than their parents’ generation, and social media might be fueling that troubling trend.
So claims a review of a decade’s worth of data on roughly 200,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 17, and 400,000 young adults over 18.
Investigators found that beginning in the mid-2000s, those under the age of 26 started reporting a huge rise in symptoms related to all three mental health problems. The spikes ranged from about 55 to 70 percent. No such jump was seen among adults over the age of 26.
“Other studies had also documented an increase in mental health issues among adolescents, but it was unclear whether this was a shift among people of all ages or a generational shift,” explained study author Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University.
The latest findings suggest a generational shift is indeed underway. These young adults “are experiencing mental health issues at a much higher rate than millennials were and are, even after accounting for year and age,” Twenge said. Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996.
Why? “These increases in behaviors,” Twenge said, “cannot be explained by [more] awareness or acknowledgement.”
Instead, Twenge thinks the likely culprit is the explosive rise of social media over the past 10 years. The result, she said, is that “the way teens and young adults spend their leisure time has fundamentally changed.”
They “spend less time with their friends in person, and less time sleeping, and more time on digital media,” Twenge noted. “The decline in sleep time may be especially important, as not getting enough sleep is a major risk factor for depression and suicidal thoughts.”
What’s more, digital media is “something that happens to them every day, for hours at a time,” she said. “So, it makes sense it would have the largest impact on their mental health.”
And that impact hasn’t been good.