Would you believe that if they told you that digital communication can change your mood to the point of creating serious psychological disorders, depression or suicidal thoughts? A recent study shows that these ailments have increased in young Americans and can be due to the change in how we interact with others. The details were published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Psychologist Jin Tweng, lead author of the study, and colleagues analyzed the data of 611,880 respondents. They were interviewed in the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health (NSDUH), which contains relevant information on tobacco, alcohol, drug use as well as on mental health.
What happens between 12 and 25 years?
In the analysis, the researchers found that between 2005 and 2017 there was an increase in the mental health problems of certain younger generations relative to older generations. Adolescents aged 12 to 17, as well as young people aged 18 to 25, are among the group affected by these disorders.
Percent with more depressive episodes by age group between 2009 – 2007. / Journal of Exceptional Psychology
In the late 1970s, compared with the mid-2000s, they experienced severe psychological distress, increased depression, suicidal thoughts or other suicide attempts, "Twong wrote.
The percentage of adolescents who reported symptoms of depression rose to 52%. While the proportion of young people who had serious mental disorders increased up to 71%, and those with suicidal tendencies or thoughts reached up to 47%.
Compared to these data with the adult generation over 65 years, there is a large generational difference. They experienced a decrease in psychological pressure in that period of time. "What suggests a generational change in mood disorders instead of a general tumor of all ages," says psychologist Tweng.
Percentage with severe psychological problems for each age group between the years 2008 – 2007. / Journal of Exceptional Psychology.
What makes them more depressed and suicidal?
The increase in these psychological problems can be related to electronic communication and digital media. For authors, social networks and their effects can have a greater impact on today's adolescents than on those of previous generations, which were far from the digital age.
"Cultural trends over the last 10 years may have a greater impact on mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes among young people," says Jin Teweng.
The authors see that people who spend more time on social networks and less time with other people face to face report less well-being, which brings with it symptoms of depression. In addition, the use of the Internet and participation in cyberbullying (victimization or disturbing) have been associated with depression, self-harm, and thoughts or suicidal behavior.
The increase in these disorders during adolescence began after 2011, concurrent with the purchase of smartphones. Therefore, adolescents have a disturbed sleep cycle, since their addiction to technology makes them spend many hours on the screens.
On the other hand, it is believed that young people today may be more willing to admit their mental problems than their peers from previous generations. The researchers believe that this study can be used to understand how digital media can affect mood and therefore seek a medical way to intervene in this problem.
Although it seems that technology is the reason, it may also be the solution, since AI will help find treatment for patients with mental disorders. In addition, the contribution of trained researchers to diagnose depression and anxiety in children in just 20 seconds will be expensive.
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