Study: Collapse of Teen Mental Health, Deadly Mass Shootings, Traced to One Trend

Study: Collapse of Teen Mental Health, Deadly Mass Shootings, Traced to One Trend

A new study has found a direct link between an increase in teen mental health issues, the rise in deadly mass shootings at schools, and a social trend.

“The start of the mental health crisis in the United States, particularly among young people, can be tied to an exact era in time: the advent of social media and smartphone technologies,” the Daily Caller reported Saturday.

An analysis of key indicators of rising despair and anxiety over time in the United States, which includes drug overdoses, suicide rates, and reports of anxiety, shows a dramatic rise in the country’s mental health issues. The rise nearly perfectly aligns with a rise in the use of smartphones and the popularization of social media. During the same period, the rise in mass shootings — particularly those that were committed by young males — also increases during the same timeframe.

The DC notes further:

The first iPhone was released in the United States in June 2007. Facebook was opened up to anyone aged 13 or over in 2006. Instagram launched in 2010, and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were released in 2005 and 2006, respectively. The mental health of teenagers and young adults has plummeted rapidly since the mid-2000’s, as screen time and social isolation have skyrocketed.

One key indicator is suicide rates. The crude rate of suicide in ages 15-24 tripled between 1950 and 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but then began to decline until the early 2000’s. That’s when it shot back up again. In 2000, the rate was 10.2 per 100,000. It remained relatively stable, ticking up slightly to 10.5 in 2010, before surging to 14.5 by 2017.

When the age range is expanded to 10-24, the trend is even more stark.

“After stable trends from 2000 to 2007, suicide rates for persons aged 10–24 increased from 2007 (6.8 per 100,000 persons) to 2017 (10.6), while homicide rates declined from 2007 to 2014 and then increased through 2017,” a 2019 report from the National Center for Health Statistics notes.

The decline in homicides is also noteworthy, the study found. Younger people have not become more violent, generally speaking, just more violent towards themselves; the suicide rate in this age group only passed the homicide rate in 2010.

Also, during the rise in popularity of social media from its early days to the dominance it currently holds in society, anxiety rates among youth also rose. The National Survey of Children’s Health found that those between the ages of six and 17 who were diagnosed with any sort of anxiety disorder skyrocketed by 20 percent between 2007 and 2012. In 2003, meanwhile, only 4 percent of children had been diagnosed with such a condition by a mental health professional.

“There isn’t only a correlation between young people feeling depressed and the popularization of social media, smartphones and online video games. There’s a measurable behavioral change as well,” the DC reported.

Between the 1970s and the late 2000s, the analysis noted that the number of high school students who said they saw their friends in person “almost every day” was on the decline but only a little. Between 1990 and 2005, with only slight age variations, the proportion slipped from about 50 percent to roughly 45 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

But starting in 2010, the proportion fell off a cliff: from around 40 percent to barely above 25 percent just seven years later in 2017:

The same study found that the portion of teens who said they feel lonely “a lot” of the time was actually on the decline until 2007 — the year the iPhone was released — at which point it now began a rapid increase to now all-time highs. On average, today’s 10th graders report going to 17 fewer parties per year than their peers in the 1980’s.

School shootings are also a phenomena of the most recent times:

Tragically, these trends among young people — as well as older adults, measured via metrics like drug overdoses — map onto a timeline not only of technological innovation, but mass shootings. Ten of the 13 deadliest mass shootings in modern American history have taken place since 2007. Four of the five deadliest took place in the social media age, since 2012. When it comes to school shootings specifically, nearly all of the deadliest, with the exception of Columbine, have happened in the past 15 years.

The DC concludes: “Researchers have dismissed any direct connection between violent video games and mass shootings, and there are tens of millions of American kids who use social media and don’t harm themselves or others. But overlaying the timelines of America’s mental health decline, technology use and mass shootings reveals a correlation too strong to ignore.”


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