Teen sui­cide-so­cial me­dia link probed

Study sees ris­ing rates coin­cid­ing with on­line us­age

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NATION - By Lind­sey Tan­ner The Associated Press

CHICAGO — An in­crease in sui­cide rates among U.S. 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 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 or­ga­nize 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 U.S. high school stu­dents to mea­sure at­ti­tudes, be­hav­iors 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.

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 Tues­day in the journal Clin­i­cal Psy­cho­log­i­cal 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 per­cent in 2009 to 19 per­cent in 2015. Th­ese teens were 70 per­cent more likely to have sui­ci­dal thoughts or ac­tions than those who re­ported one hour of daily use.

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

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

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