May 21, 2019 | Updated: 07:37 AM EDT

Research Shows the Rise in Mental Disorders in Teens are Caused by Social Media

Mar 14, 2019 02:31 PM EDT

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There is a current rise in mental health issues amongst the preteens and teenagers over the last decade, and studies show that this is because of the rise of social media. This is according to a survey that was released on Thursday. 

The study was published by the American Psychological Association, and they found a sudden increase in the number of young adults and adolescents who said that they are experiencing different mental health issues and experiencing negative psychological symptoms . The survey shows that those born in 1995 or later, known as iGen are the ones who have this issue the most. Coincidentally, the greatest spike in mental health issues and other psychological symptoms occurred in 2011, this was around the same time that social media was slowly making its way into the scene.

For the older generation, there is no increase observed.

"We found a substantial increase in major depression or suicidal thoughts, psychological distress, and more attempted suicides after 2010, versus 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 26 years and over, suggesting a generational shift in mood disorders instead of an overall increase across all ages."

Twenge and her team studied the data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey that has looked at drug and alcohol use, mental health, and other health-related issues in U.S. individuals age 12 and over since 1971. They studied the survey responses from more than 200,000 adolescents age 12 to 17 from 2005 to 2017, and almost 400,000 adults age 18 and over from 2008 to 2017.

The questionnaire did not ask participants if they were diagnosed with depression or another mental condition, or if they went to any psychiatrist to seek help but instead asked them if they had experienced depressive symptoms in the past year. And the rate of preteens and teengers with suicidal thoughts or other suicide-related results increased to a massive 47 percent from 2008 to 2017.

One reason for the sudden increase may be because social media has had a bigger impact on teens and young adults than on older adults who may have more stable social lives.

"Cultural trends in the last 10 years may have had a larger effect on mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes among younger generations compared with older generations," said Twenge.

The new survey also found that preteens and teenagers are not sleeping as much as the older generations, which may also contribute in the rise of mental health issues. Sleep deprivation can affect the mood and is linked with anxiety and depression, studies show.

"Teenagers definitely use social media in a way that affects their sleep," said Fobian. "They are exposed to light right before bed and that light exposure alone delays their sleep by 30 minutes. It also affects their social interactions with others."

Twenge and Fobian urge parents to limit the overall social media use of their children and encourage them to engage in social activities.

"It's important to think more mindfully about how we use our amusement time. That means getting more sleep and spending less time with digital media," said Twenge.

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