iGen More Likely Than Other Generations To Be Depressed
A 2015 survey found that two out of three U.S. teens owned an iPhone. For this reason, the generation of kids born after 1995 is called iGen, coined by author Jean Twenge, author of a book on the subject.
According to the Pew Research Center, smart phone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. These increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background, across all races and ethnicities, and in every region of the country. The bottom line: iGen teens are much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.
Not only has smart phone use and depression increased in tandem, but time spent online has been linked to mental health issues. Studies found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely than those who spent less than an hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Suicide risk factors rise significantly after two or more hours a day of time online. The reasons why are startling.
- iGen teens spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the most important connections we make as humans and feeling socially isolated is a major risk factor for suicide.
- Teens are sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely to be sleep deprived. Not sleeping enough is also a risk factor for depression, so if smart phones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly.
- The CDC defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Bullying can occur in-person or through technology.
Bullying has serious, lasting negative effects on the mental health and overall well-being of youth. Youth who have observed but not participated in bullying behavior are also at risk, reporting more feelings of helplessness than those who have not witnessed bullying. Bullying increases the risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, poor social functioning, and poor school performance. Both the bully and those who are bullied are at increased risk for suicide-related behavior.
For more information about bullying you can visit the federal government’s bullying site here or the Violence Prevention Initiative. If you know someone who is in distress, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.