The more time teens spend glued to their smartphones or other digital devices, the more likely they are to have attempted or contemplated suicide, a new study finds.
Researchers from Florida State University and San Diego State University examined results from two surveys of adolescents that date back to 1991, the Monitoring the Future survey and the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which allowed them to get a glimpse into the attitudes and behaviors of more than 500,000 teens across three generations (Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z). Participants in the surveys ranged from eighth graders to twelfth graders, ages 13 to 18.
They also recorded the number of teen suicide deaths yearly since 1999 as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Using data from the studies, the authors looked at which activities — such as school work, time on social media, mobile device usage, hanging out with friends — were most linked to symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts. Students were probed for symptoms by indicating how much certain statements applied to them. Statements included, “Life often seems meaningless,” “The future often seems hopeless,” and “It feels good to be alive.”
The teens were also asked in the surveys specific questions about their mental health, such as how frequently over the previous 12 months they’d considered suicide, or how often in that time period they’d felt sad or hopeless.