Teenagers and young adults are in the midst of one mental crisis, a study suggests that on Thursday it found that the number of depressive episodes and severe mental anxiety has increased dramatically in recent years among these groups. positive or negative, hardly found in more advanced age groups.
Leading author Jean Twenge, a 47-year-old professor of psychology at San Diego State University, spent most of his career studying the attitudes and beliefs of the younger generations. Recently, in 2017, Twenge published a popular scientific book presenting its main argument that adolescents and young adults in adulthood are particularly lonely and disconnected, especially due to the growing number of social networks and devices such as smartphones.
His book is called iGen: Why today's super-connected children grow less rebelly, more tolerant, less fortunate and unprepared for adulthood (Free translation, iGen: Why today's superconducting children grow less rebelly, more tolerant, less fortunate – and totally unprepared for adult life).
Twenge book and work have their critics who claim that their theory is backed up by weak, hand-picked evidence, or that factors other than smartphones may be the real culprit for the legitimate increase in teenage depression. New study, published in Journal of Abnormal Psychology and wrote Twenge and others, seems willing to refute at least some of these criticisms.
Twenge and his team analyzed the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey of Americans lifestyle. In total, they analyzed more than 600,000 Americans of different age groups who participated in a survey from 2005 to 2017.
Between these years, they observed the rate of episodes of major depressive disorder and severe mental anxiety, measured by how people responded to questions as if they were already feeling "so sad or depressed that they could not cheer them up." They also looked at the rate of suicide-related results, such as the frequency with which people thought of suicide, created suicide plans, and actually tried to commit suicide.
In almost all age groups over the age of 18, the serious misery that occurred in the previous month (2008 was the first year in which adult disability rates were monitored) increased. However, this increase was much more drastic in young adults.
For example, in 2008, about 5% of adults between the ages of 30 and 34 experienced severe difficulties, while 6.5% of the same group reported the same in 2017 – a 33% jump. Meanwhile, just over 8% at the age of 20 and 21 had serious difficulties in 2008 compared to 14.4% in 2017 – a relative increase of 78%.
A similar pattern was repeated in episodes of major depressive disorder and suicide-related outcomes: adolescents and young adults had a higher depression rate in 2017 than before, while depression rates in most age groups were lower than in 2009 (older people were the exception ).
Younger people tend to have more depression and other mood problems than older people. However, the results suggest that today's young people face more depression and anxiety than young people a decade ago. And while some of these melancholy may be caused by cultural factors that affect everyone to some extent, the younger ones hit harder ones.
The study cannot provide any direct evidence of what causes this inequality, a common critique of the work of Twenge. However, according to the author, it seems excluded that factors such as the Great Recession are particularly important.
"If the economic causes were to blame, it wouldn't make much sense for the depression to peak in 2017, when the unemployment rate was at record levels and was lower in a recession when unemployment was high," she said. Gizmodo. "Moreover, if economic factors were to blame, you would expect that the increase will be higher for working-age adults, directly affected by changes in the labor market. Instead, it is the youngest who shows the greatest increase in depression, including those 12 to 17 years who are spared the direct consequences of interest in family support in times of economic poverty.
Twenge and his co-authors argue that this increase in depression began in 2012, when smartphones have become a universal accessory, similar aids must play a major role. They may be even more difficult for teenagers and young people to sleep – a lack of sleep is a well-known factor for worse mental health – or a reduction in the number of social interactions people have with their friends and family. And while the same effects can also occur for millennia and older generations, the authors say they would be more influential for their formative years.
Regardless of the exact causes, it is well known that depressed and suicidal teenagers suffer more often than adults, so this big wave of depression among young people can cause waves of years or even decades later. And because this increase does not seem to end, at least for now, things can get worse.
Twenge does not take into account the value of technology, nor does it help people stay mental, but said that more work is needed to understand how these devices can affect young people and how to prevent such damage. She said soon that all of us, but mainly teenagers, would probably leave our smartphones from the bedroom, turn off our appliances one hour before going to bed and limit the time on the screen from work or school to two hours a day. less.