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Mental health issues surge by as much as 70% among young adults

Mental health issues surge among young adults: Psychological distress is 70% more common than a decade ago

  • More than 13 percent of Americans between 18 and 25 were depressed in 2017, a 52 percent increase over 2005 
  • Over 10 percent of the age group has suicidal thoughts, a ccording to a new American Psychological Association report  
  • And the number of young adults reporting ‘serious psychological distress’ in the last month has surged by 71 percent since 2008 

Young adults in the US are increasingly in a state of mental health crisis, a new report suggests. 

Between 10 and 13 percent of young adults in the US now say they have experience some form of mental health issue – ranging from intermittent psychological distress to symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts. 

These rates mark increases of between 47 and 71 percent in the last decade, depending on the category of issue. 

And the new American Psychological Association study’s lead author believes that cultural trends may be to blame.  

Depression, psychological distress and suicidal thoughts are all increasing at alarming rates among young adults, a new survey reveals – and the trend may be unique to their generations

Genetics predispose some to mental health disorders more than others, but the world we live in very much influences our mood and deeper psychology. 

Many psychologists suspect that the technology that keeps us all connected through screens – but not in person – may be in part to blame. 

Foremost among them is lead study author Dr Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University professor whose book ‘iGen’ examines this issue. 

‘Cultural trends in the last 10 years may have had a larger effect on mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes among younger generations compared with older generations,’ she said. 

She’s not alone. Many experts have noted the tendency of the increase in mental health issues, bullying and cyberbullying to mirror rises in smart phone use.  

For example, in 2005 – two years before Apple launched the iPhone that began the shift in our device landscape – 8.7 percent of adolescents reported symptoms consistent with major depressive disorder. 

By 2017, that number had jumped up to 13.2 percent – an increase by more than half. 

Young adults between 18 and 25 saw an even sharper rise in depression, with 63 percent more feeling hopeless and down in 2017 than in 2009. 

Debilitating in its own right, depression is also a risk factor for suicide and suicidal thoughts. 

Between 2008 and 2017, the number of 18- to 25-year-olds who struggled with suicidal thoughts or ‘other suicide-related outcomes increased by 47 percent. 

And within a month of the 2017 survey, 13.1 percent of young adults said they had experienced ‘serious psychological distress’ – an alarming 71 percent increase over the 2008 rate. 

The new survey’s results are a sharp contrast to mental health trends among older adults, says Dr Twenge. 

‘These trends are weak or non-existent among adults 26 years and over, suggesting a generational shift in mood disorders instead of an overall increase across all ages,’ she explains. 

‘These results suggest a need for more research to understand how digital communication versus face-to-face social interaction influences mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes and to develop specialized interventions for younger age groups. 

‘Young people can’t change their genetics or the economic situation of the country, but they can choose how they spend their leisure time.’ 

She advises limited screen time and more sleep for teens and young adults, emphasizing the need to keep smartphones away from the bed.  

‘Overall, make sure digital media use doesn’t interfere with activities more beneficial to mental health such as face-to-face social interaction, exercise and sleep,’ said Dr Twenge. 



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