top of page

Depression and teen suicide

The mental health of people in the United States of America especially teens and young adults has declined dramatically since the late 2000s. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology published a new study that found that the rates of depression among kids aged 14 to 17 increased by more than 60 percent between 2009 and 2017. The rates roughly doubled among those aged 20 and 21, and the increases were nearly as steep among those aged between 12 and 13 (47 percent) and aged between 18 and 21 (46 percent).

In the latest year, 2017, for which federal data is available, more than 12.5 percent of people, aged between 12 and 25 experienced a major depressive episode, according to the study. When the data on suicides, attempted suicides, and ‘serious psychological distress’ (a term applied to people who score high on a test that measures feelings of nervousness, sadness, and hopelessness) were analyzed by researchers, the same trends held.

The rates of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts among young people all increased significantly. According to Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, a significant cause of anguish for today's teenagers is the growth of smartphones and digital media like texting, social media, online bullying, and gaming. While older adults also use these technologies, their adoption was much faster among younger people and more complete, and the impact of these technologies on their lives was much more significant.

While some evidence is inconsistent, substantial research has found associations between poor mental health outcomes and high social media usage among adolescents and young adults. Researchers, parents, guidance counselors, teachers, and others who work with young people and teenagers say that heavy technology use and social media are a problem.