Major depression has “surged” in the US among younger Americans. That is according to a report based on medical and survey information conducted by Blue Cross Blue Shield. The survey looked at 41 million people covered under the insurance plan.
Why the dramatic increase? Perhaps further study will give more definitive answers, but the report had some educated guesses. The researchers suspect that online activities, such as social media and video games, might be part of the problem. Add to that the social isolation that comes from spending so much time in front of a screen, and you have some possible reasons for increased depression among the young.
The actual numbers are alarming. Diagnoses of major depression increased by a third (33%) between 2013 and 2016. That breaks down to a 63 percent increase for adolescents (ages 12 to 17) and a 47 percent increase among millennials (ages 18 to 34).
Dr. Karyn Horowitz is a psychiatrist in Rhode Island who is quoted in the study. She says, “It is possible increased rates of depression in adolescents are related to a combination of increased electronics use and sleep disruptions in already vulnerable individuals. Increased use of electronics, video games more commonly in boys and social media/texting more commonly in girls, can lead to increased conflict both within the home and with peers.”
We do know that some people are born with genetic traits that make them more vulnerable to depression in response to trauma and other negative situations. We do have to wonder how increased online activities affect those people in particular.
I think what we have in this new report is another warning of the potential dangers of allowing young people to spend too much time in front of a screen.