The culprit of increased depression among teens? Smartphones, new research suggests.
A new study, led by psychologist Jean Twenge, points to the screen as the problem.
- In a new study, adolescents and young adults are experiencing increased rates of depression and suicide attempts.
- The data cover the years 2005–2017, tracking perfectly with the introduction of the iPhone and widespread dissemination of smartphones.
- Interestingly, the highest increase in depressive incidents was among individuals in the top income bracket.
The recent terrorist attack that killed 50 people in New Zealand mosques has been dubbed "a mass shooting of, and for, the internet." Livestreamed on Facebook, the killer referenced a controversial YouTube star before he began his shooting spree. Many of the negative effects of social media are really just beginning to be known. So far, it's not looking good.
Not that social media is inherently bad — this is not a binary media. It does not necessarily cause mental health issues. What it is doing, however — especially in young people, a new study argues — is exploiting depressive and suicidal tendencies. And it appears that this trend is especially insidious in the developing minds of teenagers and young adults.
The study, which was published in Journal of Abnormal Psychology on March 14, was led by psychologist Jean Twenge at San Diego State University. The author of iGen and Generation Me, Twenge has devoted her career to researching the effects of technology and social media on the adolescent brain (among others). Her 2017 article in The Atlantic speculated that teenagers and young adults are experiencing increased mood disorder problems that correlate perfectly with the release of the iPhone.
This problem is affecting every generation (or cohort) in some manner. Depression-related expenses currently cost the United States $106–$118 billion annually. A major depressive disorder will affect one in six people during their lives; 17 percent of those experiencing treatment-resistant depression attempt suicide. More contemplate it. Currently, about 45,000 Americans take their own lives every year.
For this study, Twenge and her partners hone in on data from 2005 to 2017. They wanted to know what age groups were most affected by increased instances of depression. Incidence of mood disorders, they write, "generally lessens with age." In the date range cited, depressive incidents among adolescents aged 12 to 17 increased by 52 percent (8.7 percent to 13.2 percent); between 2009-2017, they increased 63 percent among young adults aged 18-25 (8.1 percent to 13.2 percent).
iGen: The Smartphone Generation | Jean Twenge | TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool
These statistics were pulled from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which included data from 212,913 adolescents and 398,967 young adults. These cohorts were not the only two to experience an uptick in depression. In fact, alongside adolescents, Boomers were observed to be most affected. As the researchers write,
"The effects were primarily due to cohort, with the Boomer cohorts of the 1950s and the iGen cohorts of the late 1990s the most likely to experience serious psychological distress, MDE in the last year, and suicide-related outcomes."
Increases were most stark among women. Though the trend affected white Americans most, increased distress was observed across racial and ethnic groups. Mood disorders were worst in individuals in the highest income bracket. Interestingly, given the timeline of the results, the researchers are confident that neither economic conditions or drug or alcohol use (rates have remained steady or are falling, depending on cohort) are to blame.
They also feel that neither self-reporting or opioid usages is behind this uptick. Willingness to admit emotional problems couldn't account for all of the observed trends; opioid addiction predominantly affected particular cohorts.
There are two trends that do appear to be causing this problem, however.
"Another possibility is that the increased use of electronic communication and digital media during this time period may have changed modes of social interaction enough to affect mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes. For example, individuals who spend more time on social media and less time with others face-to-face report lower well-being and are more likely to be depressed."
Tied into increased screen time, which could lead to engaging in or being the victim of cyber-bullying, is sleep issues. Sleep duration is declining among all age groups, but especially adolescents and young adults during a time in life when they need it the most. Lack of sleep has been linked to mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts.
Though the internet is also used as a form of connectivity — say, in this case, to seek counseling for psychological problems and mood disorders — the researchers suggest further studies on how best to leverage technology for the support of individuals.
In her Atlantic article, Twenge points to a number of disturbing trends among teens: hanging out with friends less; dating less; having sex less; sleeping less. All of that time not doing those activities appear to be spent in front of a screen, making another finding — feeling isolated and lonely — rather obvious.
Utilizing the tech for good is one step forward. But another would be to put the phone down more often. A challenging prospect, given how tied into our lives they've become. If you've only grown up in a world viewed through a screen, learning that other worlds — namely, the real one — exist might seem impossible. Yet some distance is feeling more necessary by the day.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
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