Youth Mental Health Crisis & the Contribution of Screen Time

US Surgeon General Murthy US Surgeon General’s Advisory: Protecting Youth Mental Health 2021

"The challenges today’s generation of young people face are unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate. The effect these challenges have had on their mental health is devastating".

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Leading researchers have proposed and studied varying factors contributing to this mental health crisis. Although there are varying opinions on some (increased academic pressures, health risk behaviors, parental micromanaging, and broader cultural stressors such as gun violence, climate change, and racism), there is unanimous consensus on one: the unsupervised, overuse of digital media, especially social media.

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Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., Martin, G. N. (2020). Considering All of the Data on Digital-Media Use and Depressive Symptoms: Response to Ophir, Lipshits-Braziler, and Rosenberg. Clinical Psychological Science, 8(2), pp. 379–383. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uvm.edu/10.1177/2167702619898179

“Our obligation to act is not just medical – it’s moral.”

U.S. Surgeon General Murthy

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people.

In recent years, national surveys of youth have shown major increases in certain mental health symptoms, including depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation.​

1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the US have a reported mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder.

Between 2011 and 2015, youth psychiatric visits to emergency departments for depression, anxiety, and behavioral challenges increased by 28%

Between 2009 and 2019:

  • The proportion of high school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 40%

  • The share of high school students considering attempting suicide increased by 36%

  • The share of high school students creating a suicide plan increased by 44%