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Decade worth of data suggests social media causing health problems for younger generations

Posted at 3:02 PM, Mar 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-16 16:02:10-04

With social media becoming a juggernaut with today’s youth, health officials are concerned about mental health issues that are on the rise.

Upon reviewing a decade’s worth of data on 200,000 teens and 400,000 young adults over 18, the Journal of Abnormal Psychology has reason to believe that a spike in depression, distress, and suicidal tendencies might be connected to today’s social media trends among young people.

“Other studies had also documented an increase in mental health issues among adolescents,” Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of the study told WebMD, “but it was unclear whether this was a shift among people of all ages or a generational shift.”

The unprecedented spikes, ranging with a 55 to 70 percent increase,  began in the mid-2000 according to the study.

The cause of the spike is believed by Twenge to be a change in the way young people spend their leisure time and the rise of social media in the past decade. Twenge suggests that perhaps it is due to the lack of sleep or lack personal social interactions that are encouraged by the use of social media.

“(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 also said.

Shari Jager-Hyman, a researcher with the Center for the Prevention of Suicide at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that the internet has put everyone in the same virtual room and that cyberbullying is a something that older generations have no experience with.

“cyberbullying and social comparison facilitated by social media, both of which are associated with negative psychological outcomes,” Jager-Hyman told WebMD, “But it is certainly possible that increased exposure to social/digital media and decreased time engaging in face-to-face interactions may contribute to greater increases in psychological distress in younger people.”

According to a press release from the American Psychological Association, “There was no significant increase in the percentage of older adults experiencing depression or psychological distress during corresponding time periods. The researchers even saw a slight decline in psychological distress in individuals over 65.”