Is There a Link Between Social Media and Teen Depression?

Is There a Link Between Social Media and Teen Depression?

According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was a 33% increase in the number of teens experiencing depression, a 23% rise in teen suicide attempts, and a 31% surge in the number of teens who died by suicide in the five years between 2010 to 2015. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Foundation says suicide is now the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 to 24.

In a recent paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, researcher Jean Twenge and her colleagues found significant increases in depression, suicide attempts, and suicide in teens from every background in late 2012. At the same time, smartphone ownership crossed the 50% threshold. By 2015, just three years later the number of teens with access to smartphones grew to a whopping 73%.

While the correlation is not absolute, it cannot be ignored. Twenge says that not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but she and her research team also discovered that as teens spent more time online they were more likely to display at least one suicide risk factors. In fact, youth who spent five or more hours online each day were 71% more likely than those who spent only one hour a day online to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan, or attempting suicide). The researchers found that spending more than two hours a day online caused suicide risk factors to rise significantly.

The negative elements of social media are already well-know: cyberbullying, social isolation and sleep deprivation. Teens (and adults) also can feel disconnected when viewing the "picture-perfect" lives of their peers. All of these factors are suicide risk factors.

If you have mental health concerns regarding your child, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK [8255]).

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