Data shows potential effects of social media on teens' mental health

Depression

Depression

The study doesn't answer the question, but it suggests that one factor could be rising social media use. Meanwhile, the number of female teenagers reporting symptoms of severe depression rose by 58 percent.

-In 2015, 36 percent of all teens reported feeling desperately sad or hopeless, or thinking about, planning or attempting suicide, up from 32 percent in 2009. Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said the study provides weak evidence for a popular theory and that many factors influence teen suicide. Recent teen suicides have been blamed on cyberbullying, and social media posts depicting "perfect" lives may be taking a toll on teens' mental health, researchers say.

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.

The authors surveyed suicide reports between 2009-15 and asked girls about their use of social media, electronic devices, print media, television and how much time they spent with friends.

Other studies have also suggested that spending more time on social media can lead people to feel unhappy.

Twenge concluded that limiting screen-time to one or two hours per day would statistically fall into the safe zone for device usage.

"These increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming", said Jean Twenge, Professor at the San Diego State University in California. They found that doing activities like sports, exercise, homework, attending religious services and interacting with others in-person are linked to fewer depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes. "Teens are telling us they are struggling, and we need to take that very seriously". "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.