Teens and young adults are in the midst of a unique mental health crisis, suggests a new study out Thursday.
It found that rates of depressive episodes and serious psychological distress have dramatically risen among these age groups in recent years, while hardly budging or even declining for older age groups.
Lead author Jean Twenge, a 47-year-old professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has spent much of her career studying the attitudes and beliefs of younger generations.
Most recently, in 2017, Twenge published a pop-science book laying out her central argument that teens and young adults coming of age are especially lonely and disconnected, thanks in part to the growing abundance of social media and devices like smartphones.
Twenge’s book and work had has its detractors, who argue that her theory is supported by cherry-picked and weak evidence, or that other factors aside from smartphones could be the real culprit behind a legitimate rise in teen depression.
Twenge and her team looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey of Americans’ lifestyle habits.