Teen suicides are increasing just at a time when the use of social networks is also on the rise and both phenomena could be related, a study indicates.
Teen suicides increased between 2010 and 2015 after nearly two decades of decline, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The reason for the rise is unknown.
The study raises the question without answering it but suggests that the increasing use of social networks could be one of the factors. Recent teen suicides have been attributed to harassment over the internet, and profiles describing “perfect” lives could affect the mental health of young people, according to the researchers.
“After hours of posting messages on Instagram I feel worse because I feel left out,” said Caitlin Hearty, a 17-year-old high school student in Littleton, Colo., Who helped organize an offline campaign last month after several suicides. teenagers in the area.
“Nobody posts messages about bad times,” said Chloe Schilling, 17, who participated in the campaign in which hundreds of teenagers agreed not to use the Internet or social networks for a month.
The study authors investigated CDC suicide reports for 2009-15 and the results of two high school surveys of attitudes, behaviors, and interests. Half a million adolescents from 13 to 18 years participated. They were asked about the use of electronic devices, print media, television and time with friends. Questions about moods included the frequency of feelings of impotence and considering or attempting suicide.
The authors did not investigate the individual circumstances of the suicides. Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide, said the study presents weak evidence in favor of a widespread theory and that there are many factors that influence adolescent suicide.
The study appeared on Tuesday in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
The data includes:
-Telephone use of cell phones and other electronic devices for at least five hours a day increased from 8% in 2009 to 19% in 2015. They were 70% more likely to have thoughts or take suicidal measures than those reporting one hour of daily use.
-In 2015, 36% of all adolescents reported feelings of deep sadness or hopelessness, or thinking about, planning or attempting suicide, compared to 32% in 2009. In girls the rates were higher: 45% in 2015, compared to 40% in 2009.
-In 2009, 58% of girls in their last year of high school used social media daily or almost; in 2015, that figure had risen to 87%. The probability of experiencing depression was 14% higher than in those who used social networks less frequently.