Symptoms of depression and suicide in teens, especially girls, increase with the time spent in front of a screen- be it computers, cell phones or tablets- a recent study has suggested.
Professor of psychology at San Diego State University Jean Twenge said, "These increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming. Teens are telling us they are struggling, and we need to take that very seriously."
The research examined questionnaire data from more than 500,000 U.S. teens and also looked at data suicide statistics kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They found that the suicide rate for girls aged 13-18 increased by 65 percent between 2010 and 2015, and the number of girls experiencing suicide.
The number of teen girls reporting symptoms of severe depression increased by 58 percent.
"When I first saw these sudden increases in mental health issues, I wasn't sure what was causing them," said Twenge.
"But these same surveys ask teens how they spend their leisure time, and between 2010 and 2015, teens increasingly spent more time with screens and less time on other activities. That was by far the largest change in their lives during this five-year period, and it's not a good formula for mental health," Twenge added.
The research found that 48 percent of teens who spent five or more hours per day on electronic devices reported at least one suicide-related outcome, compared to only 28 percent of those who spent less than an hour a day on devices.
Depressive symptoms were more common in teens who spent a lot of time on their devices, as well.
"Although we can't say for sure that the growing use of smart phones caused the increase in mental health issues, that was by far the biggest change in teens' lives between 2010 and 2015," she further stated.
Twenge concluded that limiting screen-time to one or two hours per day would statistically fall into the safe zone for device usage.
The research was conducted by San Diego University and the findings were reported today in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.