The wave of depression among young people is worrying
With the rise of smartphones and social networks, the mental health situation of young people has deteriorated, and new studies recently published on the long term paint an even bleaker picture. Studies conducted by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at the University of San Diego and reported by the Financial Time, show for example that the response of adolescents to the statements “the future is hopeless” and “life has no meaning” has deteriorated sharply since the 2010s, with the emergence of applications like Facebook and its equivalents.
Between 20 and 30% of young people surveyed agree with these statements, whether they are boys or girls. According to one of these studies conducted in 2019 in the United Kingdom, 85% of young people aged 18 to 24 years feel alone or partially alone. Loneliness, in addition to being a mental health risk, is also physically harmful. A study from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, estimates that loneliness can be like smoking 15 cigarettes a day, while friendship promotes the release of endorphins, which give a feeling of well-being.
According to Belgian psychiatrist Robert Vermeiren, smartphones have an effect on young people’s short-term thinking because they process signals very impulsively. One of the main distortions found related to the unrealistic images conveyed by platforms such as Instagram concerns the self-image of young girls.
According to the study reported by Financial Time, 35% of British girls in the group that spends more than five hours on social networks have already self-harmed, the percentage for boys being slightly higher than 10%. These behavioral disorders will certainly have lasting effects on society.
As psychiatry professor Inez Myin-Germeys of the Catholic University of Leuven reminds us, 75% of adults suffering from behavioral disorders have contracted them before the age of 18. The solution put forward by some therapists and specialists is the one concerning the place of education.
But for a product that is constantly available at home and outside, it can be difficult to assert one’s character and not consume, as for any addiction. Compared to obesity, for example, we can see that supermarkets offer shelves with so-called healthy foods but that high-calorie products continue to be offered for sale, a simple information campaign is not enough. One solution that seems unworkable would be to legislate that young people should only have access to smartphones from a certain age.
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