If things have a tendency to feel bleak these days, it’s not just you. Young Americans are more than twice as more likely to suffer from mental health problems than they were a decade ago, a new study published by the American Psychological Association finds.
Teens and young adults today, in the late 2010s, are more likely to go through depression or have suicidal thoughts, and “more [have] attempted suicide,” than people the same age in the mid-2000s, according to Jean Twenge, who led the study. She believes this uptick in depression and suicidality makes teens and young people today significantly different from previous generations.
“These trends are weak or non-existent among adults 26 years and over, suggesting a generational shift in mood disorders instead of an overall increase across all ages,” she said.
Twenge, who wrote a book on the generation divide between millennials and those born after the mid-1990s, thinks social media and smartphones may be to blame because they chip away at the quality of your sleep—something that honestly may seem obvious if you grew up with smartphones, because it feels like people have been saying it for forever.
They have; Twenge’s takeaways builds on her previous research. In 2017, Twenge found that a greater percentage of young people were getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night than some 10 or 20 years ago, and smartphone usage played a role—not only because time spent texting or scrolling through Twitter is time spent not sleeping, but also because the light emitted from smartphones can mess with your body’s sleep cycle.
Twenge’s advice on how to combat this echoes what others have said: Use your phone less at night; keep them out of the bedroom entirely; ban phone usage an hour before bedtime and developing a relaxing bedtime routine. Personally, I’m ready for the mass exodus from Instagram and Facebook—it hasn’t happened yet, but I hope it does soon.