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of Shamard Charles, MD
Mental health problems have significantly increased over the last decade and the rise of digital media could be one of the reasons why, according to a national survey published Thursday.
The research, published by the American Psychological Association, found strong increases in the number of young adults and adolescents who reported having experienced negative psychological symptoms – particularly in those born in 1995 or later, known as iGen. Coincidentally, the biggest peak of symptoms occurred in 2011, at about the same time that social media burst onto the scene.
No corresponding increase was seen in the elderly
"We found a substantial increase in major depression or suicidal thoughts, psychological distress and more suicide attempts after 2010, in the mid-2000s, and that increase was by far the largest in adolescents and young adults, "said lead author Jean Twenge, author of the book" iGen "and professor of psychology at San Diego State University. "These trends are weak or non-existent among adults aged 26 and older, suggesting a generational change in mood disorders instead of a general increase across all ages."
Twenge and his team analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey that investigated drug and alcohol use, mental health and other related issues to health in US individuals aged 12 and up since 1971. They have reviewed the responses of over 200,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 from 2005 to 2017 and nearly 400,000 adults aged 18 to over 2008-2017.
The questionnaire did not ask participants if they had been diagnosed with depression or another mental condition, but instead asked people if they had had depressive symptoms in the last year. The rate of individuals who reported symptoms consistent with major depression in the last 12 months increased by 52% in adolescents from 2005 to 2017 and by 63% in young people aged between 18 and 25, from 2009 to 2017, they discovered researchers. There was also a 71% increase in young adults who had severe psychological problems in the previous 30 days from 2008 to 2017.
And the rate of young adults with suicidal thoughts or other suicide-related outcomes has increased of an impressive 47% from 2008 to 2017.
One reason for the increase could be that the use of digital media has had a greater impact on adolescents and young adults than older people who tend to have a more stable social life.
"Cultural trends over the past 10 years may have had a greater effect on mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes among younger generations than older generations," said Twenge.
These results, which are probably not due to genetics or economic problems, suggest that more research is needed to understand how digital communication and face-to-face social interaction influence mood disorders and outcomes related to suicide, he added.
Spending time with people face to face is a great protector against depression. Sometimes we believe that communicating electronically is equally valid, but it is not.
Recent studies have shown that greater use of social media is associated with greater reported symptoms of social anxiety, social isolation and feelings of loneliness.
Aaron Fobian, clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the psychiatric department of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, warns against confusing the association between social media use and mental and cause health conditions.
"We cannot say with certainty that the increase We see is the direct result of the use of social media," Fobian told NBC News. "For example, adolescents may have depressive or anxious symptoms and so spend more time on social media looking for a way to connect. " The most sleepy generation?
The new survey also found that young people do not sleep as much as previous generations, who may also play a role in the rise of mental health problems. Sleep deprivation affects the mood and is associated with anxiety and depression, research shows
"Teenagers definitely use social media in a way that affects their sleep," Fobian said. "They are exposed to light just before going to bed and that single exposure to light delays their sleep by 30 minutes. It also affects their social interactions with others."
Twenge and Fobian urge parents to limit ; general use of social media and encourage their children to engage in social activities.
"It is important to think more carefully about how we use our fun time. This means more sleep and less time with digital media," said Twenge.
Twenge encourages parents to maintain a "no phones in the bedroom" rule by installing charging stations outside the bedroom. And parents should give the example not only by participating in politics, but also by interrupting the use of the telephone by an hour from bedtime, Fobian said.
"How lack of sleep and overall screen time affect mental health is a real thing," Fobian said. "And it's not just screen time, but it's also what the screen has replaced. it matters because spending time with people face to face is a great protective factor against depression. "
" Sometimes we feel that communicating electronically is equally valid, but it is not, "Fobian concluded.
The results of the study are published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.