Teen sui­cide and so­cial me­dia link

Study: Pres­sure on­line leads US youths to de­pres­sion and self-harm

The Star Malaysia - - World -

CHICAGO : An in­crease in sui­cide rates among US teens oc­curred at the same time so­cial me­dia use surged and a new anal­y­sis sug­gests there may be a link.

Sui­cide rates for teens rose be­tween 2010 and 2015 af­ter they had de­clined for nearly two decades, ac­cord­ing to data from the fed­eral Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Why the rates went up, how­ever, isn’t known. The study doesn’t an­swer the ques­tion, but it sug­gests that one fac­tor could be ris­ing so­cial me­dia use.

Re­cent teen sui­cides have been blamed on cyberbullying, and so­cial me­dia posts de­pict­ing “per­fect” lives may be tak­ing a toll on teens’ men­tal health, re­searchers say.

“Af­ter hours of scrolling through In­sta­gram feeds, I just feel worse about my­self be­cause I feel left out,” said Caitlin Hearty, a 17-year-old Lit­tle­ton, Colorado, high school se­nior who helped or­gan­ise an off­line cam­paign last month af­ter sev­eral lo­cal teen sui­cides.

“No one posts the bad things they’re go­ing through,” said Chloe Schilling, also 17, who helped with the cam­paign, in which hun­dreds of teens agreed not to use the In­ter­net or so­cial me­dia for one month.

The study’s au­thors looked at CDC sui­cide re­ports from 2009-15 and re­sults of two sur­veys given to US high school stu­dents to mea­sure at­ti­tudes, be­hav­iours and in­ter­ests.

About half a mil­lion teens ages 13 to 18 were in­volved.

They were asked about use of elec­tronic de­vices, so­cial me­dia, print me­dia, tele­vi­sion and time spent with friends.

Ques­tions about mood in­cluded fre­quency of feel­ing hope­less and con­sid­er­ing or at­tempt­ing sui­cide.

The re­searchers didn’t ex­am­ine cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing in­di­vid­ual sui­cides.

Dr Christine Moutier, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer at the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion, said the study pro­vides weak ev­i­dence for a pop­u­lar the­ory and that many fac­tors in­flu­ence teen sui­cide.

The study was pub­lished yes­ter­day in the journal Clin­i­cal Psy­cho­

log­i­cal Science.

Data high­lighted in the study in­clude:

> Teens’ use of elec­tronic de­vices in­clud­ing smart­phones for at least five hours daily more than dou­bled, from 8% in 2009 to 19% in 2015. These teens were 70% more likely to have sui­ci­dal thoughts or ac­tions than those who re­ported one hour of daily use.

> In 2015, 36% of all teens re­ported feel­ing des­per­ately sad or hope­less, or think­ing about, plan­ning or at­tempt­ing sui­cide, up from 32% in 2009. For girls, the rates were higher – 45% in 2015 ver­sus 40% in 2009.

> In 2009, 58% of 12th grade girls used so­cial me­dia ev­ery day or nearly ev­ery day; by 2015, 87% used so­cial me­dia ev­ery day or nearly ev­ery day. They were 14% more likely to be de­pressed than those who used so­cial me­dia less fre­quently.

“We need to stop think­ing of smart­phones as harm­less,” said study au­thor Jean Twenge, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor at San Diego State Univer­sity who stud­ies gen­er­a­tional trends. — AP

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