A new study has claimed that excessive use of social media may be related to increased risks of depression and suicidal rates in teen girls.

The paper used data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System and Monitoring the Future, which are two annual questionnaires taken by several thousands of high schoolers in the United States. The surveys generally include questions about social media use and depression and suicide symptoms.

The lead author of the study, Jean Twenge, also took into account the suicide rates reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Link Between Too Much Time On Social Media And Morbid Thoughts

Twenge, who is a psychology teacher at the University of San Diego, noticed a connection between the prolonged use of social media daily and suicide-related outcomes, based on her research. Her findings were published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science on Nov. 14. The study authors found that the suicide rate for girls ages 13 to 18 increased by 65 percent in 2010 to 2015.

The number of teenage girls in the United States who experienced morbid thoughts such as feeling hopeless and thinking, planning, or attempting suicide increased by 12 percent during the same period. The number of teen girls who reported severe depression also increased by 58 percent.

Twenge said that at first, she was not sure what was causing the sudden increase in mental health issues. However, an analysis of the surveys showed that teens were spending more time in front of screens, including tablets, cell phones, and computers. She said this was the biggest change in the lives of teenagers during the five-year period, when depression-related cases and suicidal thoughts rose.

“Among those who used electronic devices five or more hours a day, 48 percent had at least one suicide-related outcome,” Twenge wrote in the paper. “Thus, adolescents using devices five or more hours a day (vs. 1 hour) were 66 percent more likely to have at least one suicide-related outcome.”

The psychologist added that the increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming, indicating that they are struggling, which should be taken very seriously.

Should Teen Girls Give Up Their Electronic Devices?

One, however, does not have to totally give up on electronic devices or social media, according to Twenge. Just by limiting the screen time to one or two hours in a day, teen girls can fall into the safe zone for device usage.

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