A higher number of teens and young adults, especially girls and young women are reportedly being depressed and anxious, comparative to figures reported in the mid-2000s. What is also terrifying is the high number of suicides among girls aged 10 to 14.
A theory that has seemed to trigger these trends is that almost every teen using a smartphone excessively has reported a worsening in mental health. Digital media should, therefore, take some of the blame for these conditions it creates.
However, some researchers claim this hypothesis doesn’t provide enough evidence. The opinions are quite different in this research field, and the common ground is somewhat blurred with uncertainty.
What Digital Devices do to Your Mind
Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, and author of the book iGen, explained that she first saw these trends in loneliness, unhappiness, and depression starting around 2011 or 2012. Then, she says, she analyzed a Pew research that showed 2012 was the first year that the majority of cell phone owners have ditched the old device and purchased a smartphone.
These two facts seem to coincide, but Twenge also observed that young people who spend the most amount of time on smartphones, around five to seven hours per day, are twice as probably to report depression than those who use their devices for only one to two hours daily.
Twenge is, however, not claiming that this is proof that smartphones trigger depression. She explained that it is not possible to do a random controlled survey on generations due to the fact that you cannot randomly assign people to be born at different times. But, the data that is existent adds a lot of evidence which indicates toward technology possibly having a significant role in this increase in mental health conditions.
Evidence and Warnings
Considering the fact that all teens use media, why the worsening conditions in mental health are way more pronounced in girls than in boys? Twenge explained that social media is way more used by girls than boys, and all that it does is making a comparison, but not in real-time.
Twenge clarified that because teenagers’ brains are still vulnerable and developing, they are more exposed to mental issues triggers. Also, they haven’t had much time to develop social connections, which older people have, so they depend even more on their smartphones for social validation.
The same goes for the high suicide rates that are currently reported all over the world: the availability of smartphones could explain this trend too.
Comparing the years before smartphones to now, mental health trends are way more negative, and a combined ‘bag’ for millennials.