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2 Reasons Why Mental Illness is Skyrocketing in Young Adults

2 Reasons Why Mental Illness is Skyrocketing in Young Adults

Most of us think of our teens and 20s as the years when life is full of parties and good times. But it isn’t always fun and games for every 14- to 27-year-old who make up “Generation Z”. Disturbing new research shows that teens and young adults are more likely to feel stressed, depressed, or even suicidal compared with millennials when they were the same age. The researchers noted a 71 percent increase in young adults reporting psychological distress and a 63 percent jump in those with symptoms of depression. Among adolescents, the incidence of depressive symptoms jumped by 52 percent. And nearly twice as many in the GenZ population have thoughts about suicide.

What’s behind the rise in mental illness?

The researchers pointed to two likely culprits.

1. Excessive Tech Use

Being tethered to our smartphones isn’t helping our mental health. Several studies have found that heavy social media use is associated with a greater risk for anxiety and depression, loneliness, feelings of isolation, self-esteem issues, and suicidal thoughts. In a study of over 1 million teens, researchers found that those who had less time screen time and more face-to-face time with friends were happier than those who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, doing social media, texting, using video chat, or watching TV. Another study from 2018 found that when college students limited social media time to no more than 30 minutes a day for three weeks, they reported significant reductions in depression and loneliness, as well as less anxiety and FOMO (or “fear of missing out”). Tech addiction is real, and teens are particularly vulnerable to it.

2. Lack of Sleep

Sleep is vital for mental health, and teens need more of it than adults. For optimal cognitive function, teens require about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, but less than 9 percent are getting adequate shut-eye. Research has found a link between a lack of adequate sleep and mental illness in teens. One study that looked at nearly 28,000 high school students found a 38 percent increase in symptoms of depression and a 58 percent rise in suicide attempts for every hour of sleep lost. This same study also found that sleep deprivation was also tied to a 23 percent increased risk for substance abuse. Addiction is often associated with co-existing mental health issues.

Addiction to technology and lack of sleep not only increase the risk of mental illness, but they can also disrupt the important processes that are taking place in the developing teen brain.

At Amen Clinics, we have spent decades helping people of all ages improve their brain health as part of a comprehensive treatment approach to mental health and wellness. For more information, call us today at 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit.

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COMMENTS

  1. Heather Roberts says:

    Another reason for skyrocketing mental illness we feel is the excessive prescribing of antidepressants, and especially antipsychotics which are affecting the way young brain’s function, and are causing more problems of their own. Another major contributor to mental ill health is the acne (and chemo) drug Accutane isotretinoin, for which prescriptions in the UK have raised by 680% in recent years. This drug, according to the research and scans done by Dr Doug Bremner, is capable of shutting down 21% of the pre frontal lobes in the brain. We have been contacted by SO many parents who have lost their children to Suicide, caused we all feel CERTAIN by this drug, and we lost our own son to it. We wonder whether a lack of enzyme CYP450 does mean that some people cannot metabolise or detoxify from this drug, whereas others can. But there are so many reports of physical damage to colons, pancreases etc on this drug, even after stoppage, and what can even be, permanent sexual dysfunction. Cases against Roche, who made this drug, have been settled out of court so the public never get to learn about its possible really dire effects. Pharma do not really want this information publicised and keep reiterating that no causal link has been proved between it and suicide, but we parents knew our own children, before and after taking Accutane and we beg to differ. The more there is a rise in prescriptions, the more children and adults are at risk. If you combine this factor with the other causes you list here for the rise inbmental illness, we can see that young people have a great deal to cope with. Thanks for all your insights on your posts. The one on effects on the brain of chemotherapy a while back was particularly good and very relevant to Accutane symptoms, as Accutane was originally developed as a chemo drug, so it’s logical that depression, fatigue etc can be the result.
    H.Roberts

    • Susan K. says:

      I absolutely agree with you. My grandson was brought into the ER of a well-known teaching hospitals in San Diego (three times admitted, placed on 72-hour holds with medical staff wanting to release after giving him few rounds of antipsychotics (olanzapine and risperidone) which caused more distress (he was placed on the olanzapine for 8 weeks (changed to Risperidone (same reaction) — meds made him more aggressive, angry and increased his hearing sensitivity becoming increasingly paranoid, fragmented and delusional with each episode (he’s off meds now but the trauma associated with each admission seeking help has made more distrusting) still waiting to see if he’ll balance — he’s struggling to stay sane, but more meanable at this time WITHOUT the drugs. I posted a few reviews on Yelp regarding the admission in March and October 2018. I hopeful that with time, he’ll be able to release the anger and confusion that’s been reinforced with each 72 hold admission will subside while his brain attempts to rebalance.

      • Dr. Cherie Azodi says:

        Taking excessive prescribing of antidepressants is a cry for help in America!

        People are spending so much on luxuries that they need medication because their basic needs are not being met. We need to think of how long we are going to let this go on before we realize we need to stop, reset, reflect!

        Society is not presently heading in a direction that permits togetherness, healthy living, and wholesome mental health. The epidemic of clinical depression and various mental illnesses throughout the country is a symptom of this. To overcome our feelings of isolation from others, we can become reflexively oppositional, withdrawn, depressed, and avoidant: we avoid putting concentrated effort into fixing our problems and connecting with other people and instead try to rely too much on medication. Medication may be necessary for some mental illnesses, but medication is not a replacement for our basic needs, such as love, intimacy, and family.

        We are overworked and underpaid, and the middle and lower classes suffer disproportionately. The gap between people causes them to fear each other and grow emotionally distanced. In our panic, we cease to think rationally and look for an easy fix in medication.

        We need to address the roots of the problem so we can move forward instead of over-medicating.

      • Jane says:

        Hello Susan, I’m sorry to hear about your grandson, I am currently experiencing a nearly identical situation with a loved one. Ive wondered if the medication given to him in ER made him worse also. I’m also wondering if the current medication is hurting or helping. I would love to connect with you for resources, and information. After several hospitalizations, we are at a loss of what to do next. I would really appreciate if you could email me kjtak456@gmail.com I hope your grandson is recovering well

    • Lisa says:

      I know the use of cannabis is controversial but I think most people would agree the use of it in adolescent brains and even the early 20s can’t be good. I would be interested in Dr. Amen”s thoughts on this topic.

  2. Eytan says:

    3. Drugs…

  3. Nanette Glencer says:

    I firmly believe that poor diet is a big factor. Processed food and fast food deprive the brain of necessary nutrients for proper functioning. I have read and watched Dr Drew Ramsey. He gave a great TED Tlak and has written “The Happiness Diet” and “Eat Complete” which I have read. He also has written “Fifty Shades of Kale” which I have not read. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neirology and an organic farmer. As a school administrator, i am shocked by the food that children bring to school for lunch. I can’t believe that food is not a huge factor.

    • Dawn says:

      I agree- i think The additives in our food, plastics, gmo’s are affecting our dna. Also tech use, emfs. Processed foods. It’s scary what is allowed in our foods.

  4. Daniel McKinley says:

    Really? Not the political and economic rerun of the 30s, only with cartoonishly idiotic leaders? Not the fact that we’re coming of age during the rapidly accelerating 6th mass extinction?

    Sleeping better and using tech more judiciously aren’t going to substantially affect the material conditions that are the main drivers of legitimate demoralization (usually misdiagnosed as depression), and the primary causes of our pandemic of anxiety. Ignoring the elephants in the room is bad for your credibility. Sure, we should work on sleep and tech hygiene. But those are already symptoms of the absolute catastrophe we’re living through. They’re proximate causes AT BEST. And pathologizing the effects of societal breakdown as individual failures (as in “you’re mentally ill because you’re on your phone all the time and don’t sleep enough”) further contributes to the already-rampant alienation that is absolutely fostered by these tech-centric lives that have been foisted upon us by the demands of the market.

    • Bob Connolly says:

      So you think “idiotic leaders” and a coming “mass extinction” are “material conditions”? Perhaps they’re just your take on the world. Though correlation is not causation a clear link has been shown between teen cell phone use and depressionfrom the time social media on cell phones appeared. And defending tech companies which as you say foisted this upon kids in order to make massive profits probably isn’t wise. In fact getting enough sleep is a major problem and you come off as a tech company spokesman downplaying the importance of sleep. Maybe kids should stay up and play with their cell phones instead. Good idea.. Not.

    • Carolyn says:

      Interesting comment, full of existential despair and anger. I do agree that our cultural climate contributes to mental health conditions, and that includes the political happenings of the day. I also think the systemic reason for mental health issues, low self-esteem, turning to technology for fake connection, etc., is the deterioration of community, strong, supportive families, faith, and healthy relationships overall.

      The reasons listed by the Amen clinic and others are true, also. The important thing to note is that diet, excercise, use of technology, sleep, what drugs we put into our bodies, etc., are the things we can control and can change in our own and our children’s lives. We can take charge of our own health even if we can’t immediately change our political system. And that is s great starting point.

    • Katie says:

      Daniel, I’m so curious – I think you have something – technology and lack of sleep can’t be the only 2 things that have catapulted the epidemic. But I’m more interested in: what is your reasoning of the heightening of mental illness (not to mention suicide) in GenZ? If not lack of sleep and constant screen time, then what is it? You don’t go into the cause, but I’d love to know your thoughts further.

  5. Elizabeth Hill says:

    Number 3- “issues of the gut” due to antibiotics and the toxins in food

  6. Lynn Redmond says:

    I think another one to add to this list is poor diet. A healthy diet plays a big role in our mental state and young adults tend to not get the relationship. I have dealt with this first hand with my 4 children.

  7. Brien Ox says:

    Accutane causing suicides I do not know about this I do know from my experiance if I had had accutane at 15 it would have dynamically effected my life for the better. 45 years of depression over the scars left by csytic acne. I took in my early 20’s even though the damage was done at least I never had another cyst. My son had one cyst I got him on accutane he never had another one and at 26 he has a great complexion and does not have to deal with a poor self image, it messed my head up. I also believe kids commit suicide just because they have cystic acne more so than from the side effects of accutane believe me I thought about it every day. I have heard this before about accutane it did not effect my son his friend or myself in any negative way.

    • Carolyn says:

      My experience with Accutane was positive, but different drugs affect different people in different ways. I took it at age 35, after I was done having children, as it it was cited to cause birth defects, but I wouldn’t allow my 16 year old daughter to take it as it was reported to affect a young woman’s egg development. It is a personal choice that should be based on research and consultation.

  8. Navy says:

    Using tablets and phones is a sedentary and solitary activity. Just walking and texting is hard. Running/jogging and texting is difficult. Skating, biking, swimming, climbing are out completely.

    Where I work I see more and more children riding in shopping baskets, distracting themselves on their devices. They are not interacting with the new people around them. They are sitting, not walking. They are not learning to navigate around and with others They are not helping in the task of loading or unloading the food and items for their own households. In fact, we adults need to work around them to make sure we don’t accidently disturb or harm them as we unload and load the items in the baskets.

    These kids are still and silent and isolated in a whole crowd of people, oblivious to what is going on around them.

    The grocery cart example is but one scenario, but is it any wonder these kids are turning to have high rates of depression? Interacting with electronics is no substitute for interacting with living beings.

  9. Pamela M McCraw says:

    The sleep research cited above is based on the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (https://nccd.cdc.gov/Youthonline/App/Results.aspx?) done every two years. The 2017 data also shows 75% of kids get less than 8hr of sleep per night. In addition recent adolescent sleep research shows that 1) teens sleep cycle shifts later during adolescence and they can’t get to sleep before 11p regardless of electronics usage and 2) teens need 9-10 hrs per night. So 7 hrs or less of sleep is a 2-3 hr sleep deficit per night. Sleep deprivation is associated with multiple mental (& physical!) health issues. School start times have been creeping earlier over the past few decades. It is now not uncommon for high school to start at 7:!5 or 7:30 & that usually means a 6:30 bus. It’s difficult to function with a 2-3 hour sleep deficit EVERY day. Ask our depressed and suicidal teens.

  10. Pat says:

    I also had cysts starting in my twenties. Very long story
    Made short—-I figured out on my own I had become
    sensitive to CASEIN which is the protein in dairy
    products!! Look it up on Google—acne and dairy.
    Such an easy solution to such a horrible problem!
    Three doctors tried to put me on Acutain, I refused because
    They all said I had to be on two forms of birth control
    due to the severe problems with birth defects. I just had a gut feeling that was not the right med. for me. I do strongly believe in “gut feelings!
    My friend’s son just went to a dermatoregist for this
    and she never mentioned having a very easy blood
    Food allergy test done . She just told him to wash his face twice a day and wrote him two perscriptions. So many
    Doctors are still in the dark ages—not finding the root
    cause of the problem!!!

  11. Darci says:

    STRESS. We are not letting children be children. Kids have 15 minute recesses per day, are rushed through lunch and studies, have too much homework in the early grades, spend more time with their multiple underpaid undereducated care providers than their parents, are given ipads by age 2 just to prevent needing interaction with their parents who are incessantly on their own phones or gaming systems during the short time they could have together. Many parents are greedy, selfish and tired, grouchy and mean. They won’t read about parenting and exhibit poor moral character. Family vacations and family night are extremely rare. Single parents don’t know how to cope. So….good sleep is not going to happen in these stressed out kids. They eat junk food at home or nothing at all. This is a societal failure.

  12. David Kliese says:

    One important correlation between frequently used technology and sleep is missing from the article. iphones, tablets, computers. tv’s and LED lights work on the blue part of the spectrum which wipes out melatonin which is essential for sleep. Melatonin is created from serotonin [the happy neurotransmitter]. Serotonin is created from sunlight [which they don’ get enough of] plus tryptophan .

  13. Diane Kratt says:

    Read The Coddling of the American Mind for some additional perspectives on the increase of mental health problems in generation z.

  14. Debbie says:

    And let’s not forget the porn addiction epidemic!

  15. Dalton Welker says:

    I thing that people just need to leave drugs alone and sleep.

  16. Holly says:

    I wish you would include an Instagram link for this since that’s one of the most used platforms for the kids who suffer from these issues.

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