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Medicine Displays Science

Study of 500,000 Teens Suggests Association Between Excessive Screen Time and Depression (vice.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Depression and suicide rates in teenagers have jumped in the last decade -- doubling between 2007 and 2015 for girls -- and the trend suspiciously coincides with when smartphones became their constant companions. A recent study places their screen time around nine hours per day. Another study, published on Tuesday, suggests that suicide and depression could be connected to the rise of smartphones, and increased screen time. Around 58 percent more girls reported depression symptoms in 2015 than in 2009, and suicide rates rose 65 percent. Smack in the middle of that window of time, smartphones gained market saturation.

In Twenge's new study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the researchers looked at two samples: a nationally representative survey by ongoing study "Monitoring the Future" out of the University of Michigan, which is administered annually to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, and the Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a sample of high school students administered by the CDC every other year. (Both surveys began in 1991.) Altogether, over 500,000 young people were included. The study authors examined trends in how teens used social media, the internet, electronic devices (including gaming systems and tablets), and smartphones, as well as how much time they spent doing non-screen activities like homework, playing sports, or socializing. Comparing these to publicly available data on mental health and suicide for these ages between 2010 and 2017 showed "a clear pattern linking screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes and non-screen activities with lower levels," the researchers wrote in the study. All activities involving screens were associated with higher levels of depression or suicide and suicidal thinking, and activities done away from a screen were not.

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Study of 500,000 Teens Suggests Association Between Excessive Screen Time and Depression

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  • by eneville ( 745111 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @09:02AM (#55576267) Homepage

    Well, I think that explains facebook users a bit! :)

  • Coincidence? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The suicide rate also coincides with the great recession, the increase in opioid use, the popularity of the Kardashians, and the Obama administration. Take your pick.

    • Re:Coincidence? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TWX ( 665546 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @09:31AM (#55576407)

      The suicide rate also coincides with the great recession, the increase in opioid use, the popularity of the Kardashians, and the Obama administration. Take your pick.

      Most likely answer highlighted. Makes one depressed to see how stupid people can get rich and famous without talent.

  • Discussion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This was touched on in a discussion between Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson: https://youtu.be/4IBegL_V6AA?t=4624

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 18, 2017 @09:15AM (#55576313)

    Ugly teenage kids also have less sex than attractive teenage kids. From this we can conclude that if you don't have enough sex, you become ugly.

    Back in the day, before computers, the same news would've said there was a correlation between excessive TV-watching and depression, and before that, excessive radio-listening and depression. Can you figure it out?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Screen time to me is misleading because what if I have merely replaced newspaper time and book time with one device that happens to have a screen. My underlying behaviour has not changed.

      Also, does an increase in teen suicide rates ever correlate with a decrease in adult suicide rates? I wonder if their is simply an ultimate biological cause for the depression and eventually those afflicted will find a way and a time. Maybe things like social media and online bullying just accelerate the process.

    • Can you figure it out?

      Yeah. Excessive people are depressing!

    • by Jzanu ( 668651 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @10:11AM (#55576535)
      Wow the idiocy here is amazing. You should realuze research uses more sophisticated techniques than you learned in fresher statistics. Have you any understanding of structural equation modeling as a research method? They incorporate causality.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you're not into your local scene...
      Then you may invest time in being online to surround yourself with people you enjoy participating with.

      Just going off my experience as a year shy of being a millenial:
      The options at my time for being social were: Vampire LARPs/Warhammer (neither of which I could afford/wanted to get into), Religious activities, social activities with the popular kids (usually involving drinking, drugs, theft, etc to prove you're 'cool'), Community service (overlaps with Religion, but al

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        The depression isn't caused by the screen time, it is caused by people being unhappy with their lives, spiraling further when they become unhappy with their online lives, and then affecting their biology in their real lives. The problem is everybody is trying to make it out as an internet epidemic, rather than realizing it is a global sociological epidemic resulting from a combination of factors among the poor, middle, and upper class, as well as the policies and choices made in managing various countries f

    • Ugly teenage kids also have less sex than attractive teenage kids.

      The ugly ones have sex with each other. The attractive ones gets to have sex with Roy Moore.

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @09:19AM (#55576339)

    I looks like editors learned their lesson.
    If you read carefully, in the summary, no mention is made of any causal relationship so the following possibilities are still open :
    1- excessive screen time causes depression
    2- depression causes excessive screen time
    3- what causes depression also causes excessive screen time

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      Very true, it's left entirely open to interpretation and further research.

      Personally I suspect the issue is to be found with the stress of feeling like you have to be at your best 24/7 because all your friends (which at that age is more important than anything else) are constantly watching and silently judging. I could be wrong, of course, but it does sound plausible to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Anything that involves a lack of physical activity is likely correlated with depression.

    • It seems clear to me that some things that cause depression will obviously cause excessive screen time. For example, if you break both your legs you might be unhappy and unable to do much besides use electronics.

      Similarly, depression could easily cause self-medicating behavior, including watching movies or playing games.

      As for the idea that excessive screen time causes depression, that seems like a fairly common example of the 'new media is evil trope' that has existed since the printed word was invented -

      • It all started with the "twist," dance craze -- a direct spinoff of rock & roll.

      • It seems clear to me that some things that cause depression will obviously cause excessive screen time. For example, if you break both your legs you might be unhappy and unable to do much besides use electronics.

        Similarly, depression could easily cause self-medicating behavior, including watching movies or playing games.

        As for the idea that excessive screen time causes depression, that seems like a fairly common example of the 'new media is evil trope' that has existed since the printed word was invented - not just movies, comic books, videogames, D&D, but pretty much every new media gets this stupid trope from the conservatives that are not the intended target of the new media.

        As a parent it's been my experience that if I let my kids have too much screen time, or play too late, their behavior goes down the tubes. My (almost 7 year old) daughter frequently visits a friend's house where they quickly settle in front of a screen of some variety, and she comes back acting like a brat pretty much every time. I'll be talking things over with the other parents next time.

        My son (8.5 years) less so, but there's certain games- like Roblox- that turn him into an insufferable little jerk if I

      • I actually went to a meeting about this yesterday. The woman explaining things was a former addict. She used to be on cocaine. Her (now ex-)husband used to be on stronger drugs.

        She had a really good presentation on what addiction to screens means, how it functions, how mobile phone time is related to, but not the same as, gaming time. She described a number of interactions between too much time spent on screens and depression. One of the things that struck me was the similarity between the dopamine release

    • I looks like editors learned their lesson. If you read carefully, in the summary, no mention is made of any causal relationship so the following possibilities are still open :
      1- excessive screen time causes depression
      2- depression causes excessive screen time
      3- what causes depression also causes excessive screen time

      #2 doesn't explain the increase in depression.

    • 3-what causes depression also causes excessive screen time

      Absence of positive coherent fundamental ideology that covers self-consistently all important aspects of life.

      I woke up this morning on a soft bed covered with a fabric in which I can't even see individual threads, I woke up under the roof that protected me from elements, between the walls that protected me from wind, wild animals, venomous insects, etc. I put my feet on the ground to the warm embrace of soft fibers of carpet. If at this point I have

    • by Talla ( 95956 )

      Pretty much all youths these days have excessive screen time already, depression can't increase it much more. Just like with smoking, there comes a time when most people understand that we can't rationalize away the evidence with the usual "correlation does not equal causation" any longer.

    • Oh, but it's a stretch to say that

      No mention of causation, for once

      is caused by

      editors learned their lesson

      I'd guess that the correlation is more of a coincidence than a causation.

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Saturday November 18, 2017 @09:22AM (#55576355)

    Teens see all their so-called friends' styled up, filtered and photoshopped pictures, so they think everybody has a better life than themselves, small wonder they get depressed.

    Nobody posts pictures of themselves from Monday mornings, when the shadows around their eyes make them look like a Panda.

    • You know, until I looked I was absolutely 100% certain that pandas have a dark face with light patches.

      What was I thinking of?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      Teens see all their so-called friends' styled up, filtered and photoshopped pictures, so they think everybody has a better life than themselves, small wonder they get depressed.

      That only would happen if you're psychologically weak. Let's face it, while life has many awesome things, life is ultimately depressing. We don't appear to be here for any reason. There is no evidence of any objective purpose or even a creator of us or the universe. We are alone, on a tiny rock, floating through a gigantic vacuum of space. We have no evidence that there is anything beyond death and as far as we know, it is the ultimate end. Oblivion.

      Now I think your idea has merit. We are projecting

      • Teens see all their so-called friends' styled up, filtered and photoshopped pictures, so they think everybody has a better life than themselves, small wonder they get depressed.

        That only would happen if you're psychologically weak.

        It's so easy to blame those who suffer for being "weak".

        We made up stories about gods, afterlives, we gave ourselves reasons to think we are the center of a universe made for us and shattering the illusion gives rise to a change that manifests initially in sadness.

        Um, no. You're projecting the viewpoint of *one* religious tradition into the origins of *all* myths and legends, which sought to explain the order of things and our place in it. Many if not most of them have not necessarily assigned ultimate importance to humans.

        • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

          Um, no. You're projecting the viewpoint of *one* religious tradition into the origins of *all* myths and legend

          This is a tired old stupid argument from the stupidity and ignorance of folks like Ray Comfort and Ken Hamm. Investigating the universe and recording the findings aka science is not a fucking belief system. Science is also subject to change based on new information unlike most religions. Equating any religious belief of the supernatural based on faith alone with science demonstrates complete and utter ignorance and stupidity. And yes it is psychological weakness. People who turn to religion are afraid

          • There is a difference between people new to specific areas of thinking and overall psychological weakness. As people move into new areas of learning, they may need some help. Asking for help isn't a bad thing, and should never be discouraged. Many people look to religion for help on every subject. The problem isn't people trying to learn. One of the larger problems with religion is when one person or group uses it to control a large # of people, by being the ultimate judge(s) on what is right or wro

            • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

              There is a difference between people new to specific areas of thinking and overall psychological weakness. As people move into new areas of learning, they may need some help. Asking for help isn't a bad thing, and should never be discouraged.

              That's precisely my point. Teaching people things that DON'T help like religion makes things worse. It only further confuses the child who is already trying to understand the world they arrived into. We should be treating our children like a new recruit at a job. We introduce them to the place, we try educate them as best we can about what it is, what is going on and how to handle different things good, bad or indifferent they may encounter is a good thing. Teaching them to pray to some invisible thing

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @09:23AM (#55576369)

    So while there does not seem to be a direct argument that there is a causal relationship where "screen time" causes depression, the lie is implicit. First, the "screen time" is called "excessive", i.e. "bad". Then the direly needed warning that correlation is not causation is noticeably absent. To make this worse, it is not called "correlation", but the far less well defined term "association" is used.

    This is just another example manipulative writing. That is indeed bad, because it obscures reality and replaces it by the preconceptions of the author about what must be "bad" (and hence everything must be either proof the author is right or must be ignored).

    • If I was to say something on the subject... I'd most likely directly identify 'social media' as an amplifying agent of an underlying problem.

      I see two possible scenarios - 1) kids are harassing the emotionally vulnerable on social media (whereas in the past you'd at least get a break when not actually in the physical presence of your tormentors), and 2) the Internet in general is providing access to a lot of material that depressed kids might seek out that reinforces their suicidal thoughts (whereas in the

      • I think you're on the right path here.

        The online world is an emotional and intellectual fishbowl. Emotions and intellect are best developed in the real world. When we don't have as many real world experiences to fall back on, the highly emotional and intellectual world of the internet can be overwhelming. When kids spend so much time online, they are not developing the same tools they would in the real world. Young people just don't have the tools to deal with every level of insanity and brilliance

      • playing a Smith's record

        I imagine the sound of bellows wheezing and hammers clanging on anvils can get a bit monotonous.

    • The word "excessive" is not actually used in either of the linked studies.

    • So what's you point? If a person has certain level of exposure (call it "great extended fun" or "excessive"...it doesn't matter) their chances of being depressed or wanting to kill themselves would be much higher.

      Causation must be explored seriously
      People enjoying "great extended fun" should be warned

      But more importantly, little has changed in the real world in the past 10 or 20 years. We drive cars, eat similar foods, go to same schools, have the same sports, etc. The thing that changed the most is ... di

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        I see you do not understand at all what is going on. But that is fine, most people are on your side in that. "Safety in numbers" and all that...

  • by Gibgezr ( 2025238 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @09:48AM (#55576459)

    "The rise in depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes was exclusive to females. This suggests that screen time, perhaps especially social media, may have larger effects on adolescent girls’ mental health than on boys’ (and that is indeed what we found, with social media significantly correlated with depressive symptoms only among girls in some analyses and stronger correlations in others). The pattern for males, with increases in suicide deaths but not in depressive symptoms or suicide-related outcomes, suggests that boys’ suicide deaths may be driven by other disorders and risk factors not assessed here."
    So what is really behind this is obsessive gossipping?
    (Since I have 3 daughters, I suppose I could word that less flippantly. "chronicling the accounts of their peers and reporting to each other on social media". Nah, that failed to sound less flippant. I'd insert my anecdotal evidence now, but my n=3 (4 if you count my son) is not going to help much.)
    Aside from that vital information, correlation != causation, but it does point out a possible area for more study in this case.
    Their summation is pretty weak:
    "In conclusion, adolescent mental health issues rose sharply since 2010, especially among females. New media screen time is both associated with mental health issues and increased over this time period. Thus, it seems likely that the concomitant rise of screen time and adolescent depression and suicide is not coincidental."
    So ya, more work needed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ahh. Not surprising at all. "excessive screen time" for teenage girls exposes them to far, far too much third wave feminism for any of their egos, identities, or careers to remain intact unless they're prepared to toss the whole mess out the window, in which case they're suddenly "homophobic" and "transphobic" and at the center of an attack wing of Antifa wannabe's.

      I'm watching it happen to my daughter and her circle of friends, and it's *nasty* once it sets in. I've been trying to introduce to my friends w

    • ... suggests that boysâ(TM) suicide deaths may be driven by other disorders and risk factors not assessed here

      Maybe they'd cheer up if they could get girlfriends.

      Unfortunately that's not possible because the girls spend all their time on TwitBook, or they're dead.

  • by ruddk ( 5153113 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @09:58AM (#55576499) Homepage
    I figured it was just because I was an old fart that I appreciate being "offline" now and then. :D I know that when I have been working too much and spending too much time inside and/or "connected", I need put the phone in airplane mode, get out and get some fresh air and do something, otherwise my mood drops. It was just above freezing last night and I felt sort of down, but I went on a bicycle ride for 2 hours with the phone turned off. It is really doing wonders for my mood and lets not ignore the pleasure of getting back home to a hot shower and a comfy couch afterwards. :D I have opted out of a job where I needed to be available and on call. We did get paid for that and I recently had a weekend where I had to be on standby, and it reminded me that it was annoying and not worth the money. I was biking in my local forest and all the time had to remember to not go further away than I could be home and logged on at work within an hour. I deleted my Facebook account almost a year ago. After weighing the pros and cons of doing it, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't an worthwhile "investment" of my time and attention as it didn't really improve my life quality that much. There were a few benefits of staying connected to people and getting updates about things in the local community but all in all, it was mostly robbing my time. Also, Facebook's website, app and features(like notifications) have been constructed in such a way that they are "teaching" you that you have to check it all the time. If you don't do that, it will "ping" you that someone you know did something and you should check it out. If you decide you don't want that, they also won't tell you when someone is contacting you directly.
  • And not enough time living in the real world

  • I get depressed... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @10:42AM (#55576659)
    ... just watching people walk around with the damned things glued to their face. Crikey - you can't even have a normal conversation anymore with anyone!
    • I think the "real world" has become one of many threads or streams of "reality" that the digitally socially responsible person has to manage minute by minute. Once reality flows vastly more over digital streams, the old ways die. I think that in the Matrix, the Wachosky brothers got it wrong. It's not the machines forced us to the digital coffins. People volntarily chose the blue pill, as the virtual world became "reality". Also explains what there's growing lack of care by people of politics and improving

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Get off my lawn!

  • Does anyone here think there could be an equal or greater number of teens who became happy from excessive screen time? And that ultimately, computers and the internet are a force for good and the key to understanding ourselves and all things? Could happen ... ;^)
  • Could it simply be that as a person gets more and more depressed the4y spend more time on their phones etc.? Think about it. A person starts to get depressed and does not groom themselves as well and therefore decides to socialize on the net rather than in person. It can also be economic stress. A day spent with a phone, a laptop or a tablet can cost next to nothing whereas leaving the home always costs money one way or another. Further, our nation is showing the effects of an economic catastrophe
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When I stay inside for a couple of weeks without doing something outside I get depressed too.
    I don't think this is all that surprising.
    Our bodies are not built for sitting around doing nothing all day.

  • by Joviex ( 976416 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @11:40AM (#55576925)
    They are depressed not because of technology itself, but because that technology is used to bring you REALTIME NEWS. And surprise! The world is a cesspool of depression -- HUMAN ON HUMAN hate!

    Do we really need more beyond the fucking obvious fact that realtime news is fucking depressing, thus, it depresses people?
  • by ssclift ( 97988 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @12:28PM (#55577175)
    Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, published "Why We Sleep" last month. http://www.simonandschuster.co... [simonandschuster.com] I devoured the book; it's good science and remarkably well written. It covers a lot of the current work, and that work would go a long way to explaining this effect. There is so much going on when we sleep that is key to mental and physical health, it's not just "downtime", and to a degree I had not imagined. Sadly, I now realize I must consume less of my beloved coffee. Gladly, my sleep habits were already pretty good and the kids in my house have an early bedtime, no tech in the bedroom rule.
  • This is likely a case of correlation instead of causation. 40 years ago, the same correlation was probably between TV viewing time and depression. If you are isolated and have no friends, you consume more content in an effort to distract or otherwise fill your time. In the era of TV, people watched a lot of TV to fill the time and distract themselves. In the era of the internet, people are online a lot more, and at least online, if you get into a hobbiest chat room or an MMO and join a good guild, you c

  • Because it could be either way.

  • ... and even the association, like someone who associates with a guy in a blue shirt was drinking beer.

    What I don't see is causation.

    Lots of things change over time, either in the same or opposite direction as depression.

    Look at opiod abuse.

  • . . . before all this stuff started. I mean, I always knew I wasn't very popular, but at least I wasn't confronted with a real-time numerical readout of my unpopularity every minute of every day.
  • Correlation....

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