Hebrews 5:12-14 (KJV) "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Proverbs 27:17 (KJV) "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Over the past decade, more and more people in nearly every age group, financial bracket, and circumstance across the country have reported worrying symptoms. They’re losing interest in life, lacking zest for learning new things, and finding that activities they previously enjoyed feel meaningless.
But nowhere is this troubling trend more notable than among young people as shown in a study published last week in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Based on eight years of data from more than 600,000 people across the US, the researchers discovered that more young people – particularly those in their early 20s – are going through sustained periods in which they’re losing interest in life and leisure activities, at rates much higher than that same age group did just a decade ago.
These are signs of a major depressive episode; typical symptoms can include feeling depressed, fatigued, worthless, or guilty. People experiencing these episodes often also do not get the right amount of sleep, struggle to concentrate, and may think about death often.
The graph below charts depression trends from a nationwide, anonymous survey that asks participants some straightforward questions about their mental health. (The survey is designed to gain information about people’s drug and alcohol use.) The data clearly shows depression rates soaring among kids as young as 12 and young adults up to 25.
No age group over 25 has a depression rate higher than 10%, but the younger groups all do, and the rate among college-age adults (20-21) has increased the most.
Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
Lead study author Jean Twenge, who wrote the book “iGen,” told Business Insider that these trends shouldn’t be dismissed as unavoidable generational shifts.
“We have a generation of young people who are suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts at a much higher rate, and we should stop trying to explain that away and recognise that it’s a problem and try to solve it,” Twenge said. “This trend also shows up in suicide. It also shows up in emergency-room admissions for self-harm behaviours, for suicide attempts – behaviours that can’t be explained away by self-reports.”
Depression in teenagers can be especially dangerous
A bout of this kind of depression experienced as a kid, teen, or young adult can set people up for future mental-health troubles. Research shows that people who experience depression in their formative years often have more frequent and more severe depressive recurrences throughout their lives.
“When followed into adulthood, those with adolescent-onset depression (compared to those without) are twice as likely to have a major depressive episode, five times more likely to attempt suicide, and are at increased risk for death by suicide,” the study authors wrote.
‘Face-to-face social interaction has declined’
Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock
One factor that Twenge believes may be behind the spiking depression rates among young people: a decrease in social interaction.
A second study she authored, published Wednesday in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, examined four decades of surveys about how young people spend their time. The results showed that high-school seniors today spend a full hour less socialising in person than teens in the late ’80s did. High-school sophomores aren’t partying like they used to either; they attend 17 fewer parties than the sophomores of the ’80s did.
“Face-to-face social interaction among teens has declined during the digital age, and that has mental-health implications,” Twenge said. “Face-to-face social interaction tends to protect against depression in a way that digital interaction does not.”
According to the Centres for Disease Control’s manual on preventing suicide: “Connectedness and social capital together may protect against suicidal behaviours by decreasing isolation, encouraging adaptive coping behaviours, and by increasing belongingness, personal value, and worth, to help build resilience in the face of adversity.”
“We are programmed to respond to other people in real time by looking at each other’s faces, by being able to touch each other and smell each other,” Twenge said. “Digital media interaction is missing a lot of those elements.”
In addition to hanging out with others in person, Twenge said we should all also make time for other activities that boost mental health, like exercise and sleep – out of earshot from the buzzes and pings of phones and other screens.
Although only a trained mental-health professional can diagnose depression or suicide risk, there’s more everyone can do to help each other out. Asking your peers, family, friends, and kids how they’re doing – and really listening to their answers without judgment – is a simple first step.
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