More American teens and young adults appear to be struggling with mental health issues, and experts believe a number of cultural trends may help explain why. A new study found the percentage of teens and young adults with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues has increased sharply over the past decade. The same pattern was not seen in older adults.

“We found significant increases in major depression, serious psychological distress which includes anxiety and hopelessness and suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among teens and young adults with smaller, more inconsistent increases among adults age 26 and older,” study author Jean Twenge told CBS News. Twenge is a psychology professor and author of the book “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood,”

The researchers found the rate of adolescents reporting symptoms consistent with major depression in the last 12 months rose from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 13.2 percent in 2017. In young adults age 18 to 25, it increased from 8.1 percent in 2009 to 13.2 percent in 2017.

What’s causing the increase?

While the researchers didn’t study the reasons behind the trend, they have some theories. Twenge says shifting cultural trends over the past decade, including increased use of electronic communications and digital media, may have had a larger effect on mood disorders among younger generations compared with older generations.

“Recently, there’s been a number of studies showing that those who spend more time on digital media are more likely to be depressed and unhappy,” Twenge said.

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