Since the late 2000s, the mental health of teens and young adults in the U.S. has declined dramatically. That’s the broad conclusion of a new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression among kids ages 14 to 17 increased by more than 60%, the study found. The increases were nearly as steep among those ages 12 to 13 (47%) and 18 to 21 (46%), and rates roughly doubled among those ages 20 to 21. In 2017—the latest year for which federal data are available—more than one in eight Americans ages 12 to 25 experienced a major depressive episode, the study found.
The same trends held when the researchers analyzed the data on suicides, attempted suicides and “serious psychological distress”—a term applied to people who score high on a test that measures feelings of sadness, nervousness and hopelessness. Among young people, rates of suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts all increased significantly, and in some cases more than doubled, between 2008 and 2017, the study found.
These findings were based on data collected from more than 600,000 people by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual nationwide mental-health survey conducted by a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“I think this is quite a wake-up call,” says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a professor of psychology and education at the University of Southern California (who was not affiliated with the new study). “These findings are coming together with other kinds of evidence that show we’re not supporting our adolescents in developmentally appropriate ways.”
One of the study’s authors agrees. “There is an overwhelming amount of data from many different sources, and it all points in the same direction: more mental health issues among American young people,” says Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen, a book about how technology affects the lives of young people.
What’s causing today’s young people so much anguish? “This is always a tough question to answer, as we can’t prove for sure what the causes are,” Twenge says. “But there was one change that impacted the lives of young people more than older people, and that was the growth of smartphones and digital media like social media, texting and gaming.”
While older adults also use these technologies, “their adoption among younger people was faster and more complete, and the impact on their social lives much larger,” Twenge says.
While not all the evidence is consistent, a substantial amount of research has found associations between heavy technology use and poor mental health outcomes among adolescents and young adults. Research aside, many parents, teachers, guidance counselors and others who work with young people say social media and heavy technology use are a problem.
The way young people communicate and spend their leisure time “has fundamentally changed,” Twenge adds. “They spend less time with their friends in person and less time sleeping, and more time on digital media.”
Immordino-Yang echoes many of Twenge’s concerns. “There’s a lot we don’t know, and we can’t say conclusively what’s driving these [mental health] trends,” she says. “But in the real world when dealing with the health of children, you need to make your best guess and move ahead before things are unequivocally proven.”
“It makes sense,” she says, “to pay attention to adolescent behaviors we know are changing and to target those behaviors for intensive scrutiny, and in the meantime to have [young people] engage in behaviors that don’t lead to poor well-being.” She highlights unfettered access to social media as one recent and potentially unhealthy change. “There’s this overload of information and stimulation and a much bigger sphere of influence that they’re being exposed to,” she says. “Given what we know about adolescent development and vulnerability and the intensive need for intimate and healthy social connection during these years, you can see how social media may not be developmentally appropriate.”
But other experts say the existing evidence doesn’t support singling out social media or technology as a culprit. “When it comes to social media and depression, the findings are all over the place,” says Laurence Steinberg, a distinguished professor of psychology at Temple University and an expert in adolescence.
“I think every generation of adults tries to pin a negative trend they see in young people on whatever the current technological fad is,” he says. While he agrees that the data show depression is rising among young people, he says he doesn’t see “a clear cost” associated with technology or social media use.
“Certainly there are some stressors that are inherent in social media use, but there are other stressors as well,” he says. He mentions increased competition to get into college and “parents hovering” as potential factors. “It’s probably not one thing,” he says, “but the cumulative impact of a lot of things.”
Twenge says it’s tough to compare the current figures to historical rates of youth depression—mostly because historical statistics either don’t exist or aren’t comparable to current measures. But there is data on youth suicide going back several decades. “There was a big peak of teen suicide in the early 1990s that got a lot of attention,” she says. According to the latest data, current teen suicide rates are now significantly higher than those 1990 highs, she says.
The CDC has also issued reports showing that rates of suicide among young people jumped 5 [...]
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Younger adults, especially in the generation known as millennials, are seeing increasing rates of obesity-fueled cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
The rate for six of the 12 cancers related to obesity is increasing in younger adults, the cancer society said in a statement describing results from a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Millennials’ risk of developing certain cancers is nearly double that of baby boomers at the same age, the cancer society said.
The society noted “steeper increases in progressively younger ages and successively younger generations”, and listed colorectal, endometrial, pancreatic and gall bladder cancers among the cancers.
In contrast, the study found rate increases for just two of 18 non-obesity-related cancers researchers examined. Rates stabilised or declined for the rest of them, even smoking-related and infection-related cancers, the cancer society said.
Excess body weight is a known carcinogen because of hormones produced by fat cells and earlier exposure, at different periods of development, compounds the problem.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t the risk itself that was high – it was the change in risk that was alarming for its future public health implications, study authors said.
“Given the large increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among young people and increasing risks of obesity-related cancers in contemporary birth cohorts, the future burden of these cancers could worsen as younger cohorts age, potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades,” said Ahmedin Jemal, scientific vice president of surveillance and health services research, and senior/corresponding author of the paper.
“Cancer trends in young adults often serve as a sentinel for the future disease burden in older adults, among whom most cancer occurs.” – New York Daily News/Tribune News Service [...]
The rates of new cancer cases and cancer deaths have fallen in the U.S. over the past few decades. But certain cancers are becoming more common among younger Americans, and researchers think obesity may be to blame, finds a new report from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.
Rates of six different cancers that are associated with obesity increased among adults ages 25-49 between 1995 and 2014, according to the research, which was published in the journal Lancet Public Health and based on information in the Cancer in North America database. These cancers include multiple myeloma, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney and pancreatic.
Even though cancer most often strikes older adults, the sharpest increases were found in younger age groups. Pancreatic cancer exemplifies the pattern: Between 1995 and 2014, incidence of the disease rose by 0.77% annually among adults ages 45-49; by 2.47% among those ages 30-34; and by 4.34% among those ages 25-29. Kidney cancer had the sharpest annual increase for young Americans: 6.23% between 1995 and 2014.
While some cancers have a fairly clear cause — like smoking for lung cancer, or HPV for cervical cancer — many are brought on by a confluence of chance, genetics and lifestyle and health factors. Obesity is among the most impactful of these. Research has linked excess body weight to about 40% of cancer cases in the U.S., and it’s a risk factor for common types like breast, ovarian and liver cancer, as well as those highlighted in the new study. By 2014, obesity accounted for 60% of endometrial cancers, 36% of gallbladder cancers, 33% of kidney cancers, 17% of pancreatic cancers and 11% of multiple myeloma among adults ages 30 and older, the new paper says.
Excess weight may promote cancer in several ways. It can increase inflammation, which is a risk factor for a number of chronic conditions and has been found to fuel cancer cell growth. Obesity may also alter levels of sex and growth hormones, as well as insulin, which can spark growth factors that allow cancer cells to proliferate. And some fattening foods, such as processed meats and snacks, have been independently linked to cancer risk.
It’s not possible to definitively attribute the recent cancer increases to obesity — but the new report notes that the upticks in cancer for young people coincided with a doubling in rates of childhood and adolescent obesity between 1980 and 2014, making weight a likely contributor. Only two types of non-obesity-related cancer, leukemia and a type of lower stomach cancer, increased among younger age groups during the study, suggesting that all cancer rates are not rising in this population.
Healthcare providers should be vigilant about screening for and helping patients try to prevent obesity, since the consequences of climbing cancer rates could threaten decades of public health progress, the authors say.
“The future burden of these cancers might be exacerbated as younger cohorts age, potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades,” the authors write. [...]
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Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan claims that the 2019 Budget’s theme is not in line with the fiscal policy the government wishes to implement. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
SEREMBAN, Nov 4 — Umno Deputy President Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan claims that the 2019 Budget’s theme of “A Resurgent Malaysia, A Dynamic Economy, A Prosperous Society” is not in line with the fiscal policy the government wishes to implement.He said by placing the country’s fiscal position and economy at a higher risk of instability with a fiscal management that was once again tied to the global oil market, the reality was that Malaysia’s economy had become less dynamic.“The government has estimated this year’s fiscal deficit to be at 3.7 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, which is much higher than the 2.8 per cent forecast under the 2018 Budget.“A 3.7 per cent deficit is equivalent to RM53.3 billion, or RM13 billion higher than last year’s deficit, and is the largest deficit in the country’s history. This also means the government will continue to take on new debts,” Mohamad said in a post on his Facebook account today.He said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s tabling of the budget’s measures, incentives and initiatives on last Friday did not present a clear direction for the country’s fiscal policy, nor was it organised or visionary.Mohamad also claimed that the proposed fiscal policy did not give enough consideration to Malaysia’s position as a small open economy.“The government’s fiscal policy is not taking into account rising global economic risks where the probability of a new financial crisis occurring soon is supported by the latest data.“The government seems to think that the country’s fiscal management is only based on the domestic economic situation without considering external factors or implications on the (economic) stability and resilience,” he said.Mohamad opined that there should be an urgent need for commitment towards fiscal consolidation when formulating the country’s economic policy as the external current account balance was expected to shrink.“This (commitment) can be seen as an assurance that repayment of government debt can be sourced domestically,” he said.Mohamad also claimed the initiatives for the people as outlined in the budget were too insignificant to meaningfully stimulate the economy.“The focus on providing a social safety net for the low-income group has been set aside for a corporate or business friendly agenda.“Therefore, the aspiration of a ‘prosperous society’ is not significant enough to be a main theme for the 2019 Budget,” he added. — Bernama [...]
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Suicide rates tend to rise during months with above-normal temperatures, according to a study published Monday that offers a new understanding of the potential link between climate change and mental health.
The article, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, analyzed data from thousands of American and Mexican neighborhoods over several decades and found that when temperatures rose 1 degree Celsius above the average in a given month, suicide rates climbed by about 0.7% in the U.S. and 2.1% in Mexico.
The researchers’ analysis of “depressive language” across 600 million social media updates suggested that overall mental wellbeing deteriorated during periods of higher than average temperatures as well.
The researchers, who controlled for other factors while examining the link between monthly temperatures and suicide rates, concluded that “suicide rates in both a developed and a middle-income country are robustly associated with local temperatures.”
The study’s authors predict that “unmitigated climate change” could result in between 9,000 and 40,000 more suicides in the U.S. and Mexico over the next three decades, “representing a change in suicide rates comparable to the estimated impact of economic recessions, suicide prevention programs or gun restriction laws.”
Recent studies have found that the Earth’s global temperature is on track to increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius over the rest of the century.
“The large magnitude of our results adds further impetus to better understand why temperature affects suicide and to implement policies to mitigate future temperature rise,” reads the study.
However, correlation does not imply causation, and many disparate factors contribute to suicide risk.
Several studies have shown links between climate change and mental health, whether direct or indirect. The study’s authors pointed to research from India that showed a link between crop-damaging temperatures and suicide rates.
This study’s authors focused on suicide since it is one of the top causes of death worldwide, particularly in wealthier nations. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the suicide rate increased by more than 25% between 1999 and 2016.
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. [...]
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