For the first time ever, young adults are coming of age in the time of the smartphone.
And renowned psychologist, Dr. Jean Twenge, believes it is no coincidence that the teen mental health in America has spiraled downwards in the last five years.
A new study reveals the smartphone’s effects on iGen: the children, teens and young adults born in the mid-1990s and later being made anxious and lonely by their computer in their pocket.
According to a large national survey, in the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of American teens who felt both useless and joyless (symptoms of depression) went up 33 per cent — while teen suicide attempts increased 23 per cent.
And to make matters worse, the number of 13-to-18-year-olds who committed suicide increased 31 per cent and analysis found the epidemic of poor mental health is more prevalent in young adults than millennials.
Author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy, Dr. Twenge points the finger at young adults’ smartphone usage.
She says the problem is not isolated but universal, with suicidal feelings among young adults occurring regardless of socioeconomic or cultural factors.
Additionally, it was found that the increase was “driven by females.”
Which checks out as 75 per cent of teens had access to a smartphone in 2015.
“Several longitudinal and experimental studies show screen time leads to unhappiness rather than unhappiness leading to screen time.” Dr. Twenge shared.
Dr. Twenge along with her team published their analysis, titled Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time, in the journal, Clinical Psychological Science.
The discovered that teens who spend five plus hours a day online were 71 per cent more likely than those who spent less than an hour a day to suffer suicide risk.
Suicide risk factors overall – including depression as well as suicidal thoughts – rose massively after two or more hours a day of time online.
Dr. Twenge writes:
“Teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face-to-face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide.”
Dr. Twenge went on to explain how depression and suicide have many causes, including genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying as well as trauma.
“The research suggests limiting digital media use to two hours a day or less is best for mental health and happiness. It’s especially important to make sure smartphone time doesn’t interfere with sleep. Charge your phone overnight outside of the bedroom and put the phone away for half an hour or ideally an hour before bedtime to ensure more restful sleep. Lack of sleep is a major risk factor for depression.”
If you feel like you need to talk to someone, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones at 1-800-273-8255.
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