Rise in suicide and social media coincide
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, Colo., 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 to 2015 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.