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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.

    • Margaret M Kunz says:

      Heather,

      I cannot even express how sorry I am about your son. I can, however, identify with you totally about the rollercoaster ride having a child with the side effects of Isotretinoin. My life right now is a living hell…as I spend every single day researching a medication that no medical doctor will even consider researching. It’s like they have some unspoken code that if your kid took this med, your child must have also gotten psychosis at the exact same time…and that it is a pure coincidence in every single kid it happens to ….are the pharm companies really THAT powerful?

      We are going thru this exact same issue with our 16-year-old son right now. When the derm suggested he go on Isotretinoin last summer, and I expressed concern because my son already has anxiety, she looked at me like I was an idiot and told me that anxiety and depression are very different things and she’d never had a patient with depression from the med.

      Well, by this past fall, my son was so depressed he wouldn’t talk to friends anymore; he then became OCD and clinically depressed. As I write this in May 2019, he hasn’t been to school since December 2018. We have tried everything – including having him seen at an East Coast Children’s Hospital – one of the best in the country and their answer was anti depressants.

      They said they want to treat the issue they are presented with now and can’t figure out how he got here. I agreed that would be fine IF the anti-depressants actually WORKED…but while he has always responded favorably to anti-depressants in the past, he has had NO RESPONSE – good or bad – to ANY of the 5 or 6 different anti-depressants our doctors have tried with him. So now the #2 Children’s hospital in the country is recommending more anti-depressants and looking at me like I am some crazy mom who wants them to give him a magic potion and make him better.

      And, this is the best part. This amazing hospital actually told me that when their entire team of doctors met to discuss my son, just as many pointed out that there are effects the OPPOSITE of depression because acne is depressing..and a clear face makes that depression better. Sorry, but my son didn’t get CLINICAL depression from having pimples..and to hear a team of doctors use that excuse only makes me wonder how much the pharm companies are paying them. He now has SEVERE CLINICAL DEPRESSION….and i am back to the drawing board.

      It feels like he is getting worse, and I have had to stop working in order to be home with him, as his public school district was kind enough to offer him homebound instruction where a different teacher comes each day to teach him for an hour. In addition, my husband just had major surgery and isn’t able to work for a few months, so the idea of spending $1000’s on solutions that we have no idea about is scarier than where he is now.

      He feels useless, like he can’t think right, is certain that everyone is just humoring him when they say he does ANYTHING well..and he can’t even be around people at all anymore. Yet, just a year ago, neighbors used to remark he should run for mayor some day because he was truly friendly and outgoing to EVERYONE..didn’t matter if he knew them…he cared about them. And now, anything that is different scares him to death. I don’t know what to do…every day I research more..and as I tell any MD about the med and the fact that SOMETHING is keeping him from responding to medications, they look at me like I can’t handle the fact my son is depressed – and I am blaming a medication. If it wasn’t for the fact that his use of Isotretinoin is keeping him from responding favorably to any therapy, medications, etc., I wouldn’t care how we got to this point. I TELL THEM, however, since they are the experts and might know WHY he still has these awful side effects from a medication he stopped taking in late November.

      Any help is welcome…not sure if anyone even knows what we should do….but I feel like if we don’t help him soon, we will lose him….and he has to be able to go back to school in August. We have been doing everything we are supposed to do….therapy several times a week, supplements…bloodwork…had him increase his exercise…we need someone to help….

      Heather, my heart breaks for you because I can only imagine that you were where we are at one point…and i so appreciate you pointed this out

      • Jeannine says:

        The pharmaceutical companies ARE that powerful. No doubt about it.

        Psilosybin mushrooms, small doses work. 100% Denver just made them legal.

        Good luck. Treatment resistant depression is very real. Each drug they try on your child can make it worse. The warnings about suicide are when someone comes OFF the drug. Stop the madness.

      • Donna says:

        Hi-
        I’m sorry for all you are dealing with. It is heart wrenching to say the least to watch our children suffer. I have two sons with mental illness and both were put on the correct meds with the help of a swab test called GeneSite. It is a basic swab test that tells the doctor which psychotropic drugs will work best based on genetics. It takes the guessing and time out of getting patients on the right meds. GeneSite is just one brand of swab genetic testing and many others out there. I would suggest asking his doctor if they do the test. Our insurance pd. and if not it would have been around $300. Small price to pay to take the guessing out of the most beneficial medication for them. Best of luck.

  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.

    • susan mcmurray says:

      I completely agree about diet. Think about the horrible food many Americans eat. However, the question then is – is there a higher incidence of depression and other brain health disorders today, compared to previous generations? I have no idea, just asking the question. I’m convinced that quality, careful, healthy eating makes a huge difference in our bodies and brains.

      I work at eating well – No soda, no diet soda, mostly organic, grassfed beef, free range chickens, careful sugar consumption (hey, it’s one of my vices!), whole grain foods. No industrial food, non-GMO. I try not to buy canned foods. My adult children see the benefits, too. Thanks for all the great comments here. I am eager to learn more about brain health and the high incidence of depression and anxiety among young adults and teens.

  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 .

    • Tim Baker says:

      Blue light toxicity (especially at night) and lack of sunlight is a huge factor and I believe the lack of melatonin production and release to get good sleep is of primary importance. Tech devices also get microwave signalling and many kids have a device near or on their bed. This is a huge problem.

  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.

  17. Pam says:

    Diseases of all kinds are on the rise. Thank God I haven’t had to deal with a child with mental illness. I have had a friend that was on 2 different anti-depressant meds and almost committed suicide before taking himself off both and using alternative therapies including getting moving and getting sunshine and fresh air.
    Our foods are terribly toxic with pesticides, herbicides, preservatives and bad ingredients. A lot of our foods can’t even be shipped to other countries because of all the additives. Most other countries have banned glosophate and some countries don’t even allow the food colors we keep adding and for what??
    FUCTIONAL MEDICINE could be huge at helping with your children. DBC Clinic in Grand Rapids MI does monthly YouTube webinars on any number of subjects. They are reversing ADHD and all kind of mental issues by removing wheat and a lot of times dairy from the diet. Even someone not showing signs of allergies can be having reactions to some foods. Their recommended diet is the Mediterranean Diet. The Paleo Diet is also huge to get to better health. Not easy but it gets all the preservatives out of the diet and gives the body all fresh foods for healing. Our American diet is sh-t to say the least. To easy to grab packaged crap and our population is showing it. Just look around. Big Pharma loves it. Lots of diseases to give Meds for.
    I don’t claim to have all the answers but God gave us the amazing ability to heal if we give or bodies what we need to heal. My husband just reversed type 2 diabetes and went off 3 meds by using the Paleo Diet, losing weight and getting better exercise.
    Get your children off their electronic devices and get them outside. Electronics are part of the problem and also lack of Vit D from the sun. Most of us are very deficient.
    Do your research and don’t let Dr’s push drugs. It just makes the body have more problems.

  18. Arlis Letang says:

    While I agree with the fact that medications are often the first, and indeed the wrong choice for many, I think we must be careful not to dismiss the need for medication out of hand. Many people suffer from mental health issues which go undiagnosed for far too long. I believe that a vast majority of people suffering from substance abuse have underlying mental health issues which have gone unnoticed and undiagnosed. There are many causes for mental illness and the best way to combat these causes is by getting to the root of the matter. This can only be achieved through vigorous counselling and in some cases, medications. I, myself suffer from depression and my son has been diagnosed as bi-polar. He is also an addict. There is a huge lapse in following up on people who have been prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. My son was prescribed a mood stabilizer while hospitalized. It takes up to six weeks to discover if the medication is, in fact working, however his follow-up appointment with a psychiatrist was not for four months. The particular medication that was prescribed for him was not the right one, so after six weeks he discontinued them. He should have had an appointment set up for six weeks after discharge. This is only one example of how people with mental illness fall through the cracks.

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