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Young people suffer from more mental disorders, depression and suicidal tendencies than previous generations



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Would you think if they told you that digital communication can change your mood to the point of generating serious mental disorders, depression or suicidal thoughts? A new study shows that these diseases have increased in young Americans and may be due to the change in how we interact with others. The details were published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Psychologist Jean Twenge, lead author of the study, and his colleagues analyzed data on 611,880 respondents. They were interviewed for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which contains relevant information on tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse and mental health.

What happens between 12 and 25 years?

When analyzing data, the researchers discovered that between 2005 and 2017, mental health problems in some young generations increased in relation to the older generations. Young people between the ages of 12 and 17, as well as young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, are among the groups affected by these diseases.


Percentage with major depressive episodes after age group between 2009-2017. / Journal of Abnormal Psychology

"More young people and young adults in the US At the end of the 2010s, compared to the mid-2000s, severe mental distress, increased depression, suicidal thoughts or more suicide attempts were compared," Twenge wrote.

The proportion of adolescents who reported symptoms of depression increased to 52%. While the rate of young adults who had severe mental disorders grew up to 71% and those with suicidal tendencies or thoughts reached up to 47%.

Compared to these data with the generation of adults over 65, a large generation difference is noted. They experienced a decrease in mental stress during the same time period. "What suggests a generation change in mood disorders instead of a general increase of all ages," says psychologist Twenge.


Percentage with serious psychological problems for each age group between 2008-2017. / Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

What makes them more depressed and suicidal?

The increase of these psychological problems can be related to electronic communication and digital media. For the authors, social networks and their effects can have a greater impact on today's teenagers than in previous generations, which were far from the digital age.

"Cultural trends over the past 10 years may have had a greater impact on mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes among younger generations," Jean Twenge reveals.

The authors believe that people who spend more time on social networks and less time with other people face to face, report less well-being, causing symptoms of depression. In addition, the use of the Internet and participation in cyberbullying (victims or stalks) have been associated with depression, self-harm and thoughts or suicidal behavior.

The increase in these disturbances during youth began after 2011, which coincided with the acquisition of smartphones. Therefore, young people have an interrupted sleep cycle, because their dependence on technology means they spend many hours on the screens.

On the other hand, it is believed that young people today may be more willing to recognize their mental problems than their peers from previous generations. The researchers believe that this study can be used to understand how digital communication can affect mood and thereby seek a medical way to intervene in this problem.

While it appears that technology is the cause, it may also be the solution, as an AI would help find treatment in patients with mental disorders. Additionally, grants from trained researchers to diagnose depression and anxiety in children in just 20 seconds would be valuable.

Adrian Díaz
This news was originally published in N + 1, science that adds.

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