Recent studies have shown that between 2009 and 2017, there were huge increases in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and mood disorders in adolescents and young adults (Twenge et al., 2019). Major depression in those between the ages of 12-25 increased from 8 percent to over 13 percent in that time frame. Mental health issues are on the rise, especially among adolescents and young people in the U.S. October is National Depression and Mental Health Screen Month, which encourages individuals who are struggling with their mental health to seek help.
In the 2019 study, three potential causes to the rise in mental health issues were found. Described as ‘birth cohort effects’, researchers suggest that those born after 1982 have suffered unintended consequences from access to digital media and online resources. While the researchers note that this is speculative, further research is needed to understand the adverse effects of growing up in a digital world on today’s adolescents and young adults. The three potential causes for the rise in mental health issues were:
Cyberbullying is linked to the rise of digital technologies used for communication such as smart phones, the internet, and social media. Between 2011 and 2018, rates of cyberbullying rose from 15 percent to 26 percent.
In line with the analysis presented by Twenge et al. (2019), we can consider cyberbullying as a specific trend that has risen hand-in-hand with rises in communication technologies such as the internet and social media. Similar increases have been observed in studies from other countries showing that cyberbullying is a global problem.
- Technological Advancements
While advances in technology are often good, some advancements should be made with caution. Individuals who live in urban areas are more at-risk of mental health issues than those who live in smaller social environments. As industrialization and technologies continue to grow, adverse mental health outcomes have been shown in younger populations due to these changes in society.
- Changes in Environment
Today’s high tech communication options have turned traditional smaller communities into a global village. Many people no longer communicate with others face-to-face and instead communicate through screens. The global village has extended communication to include those we have never met in person. Zimbardo (2007) suggested that the anonymity of online communication often causes people to behave in mean and antisocial ways.
What are the Solutions?
Three solutions for today’s mental health epidemic have been suggested by researchers:
- Limit screen time
By limiting screen time, we are more likely to communicate with others in a way that encourages positive social and emotional outcomes.
- Spend time outside
More time on screens means less time spent outdoors. By spending time outside, we are able to have a clearer mind and reduce our stress levels. Adolescents and young adults should be encouraged to spend time outdoors as much as possible.
- Talk about mental health in schools
Many schools have begun to integrate mental health into their curriculum in response to the rise in mental health conditions. By adding mental health to the school day, adolescents and young adults become more aware of the conditions and may be able to identify signs and symptoms of mental health conditions in themselves or their peers.
While the suggested causes and solutions suggested by researchers are speculative, the trend has made addressing mental health in adolescents and young adults a priority for mental health researchers.
October – National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month
October 7 – National Depression Screening Day