Researchers are reporting that teens and young adults are significantly more depressed, bullying is on the rise and suicide attempts are increasing, especially among girls.

And a major source of the depression seems to be linked to the smartphone.

As online activity among young people continues to increase, a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, finds a major rise in significant depression among 12- to 25-year-olds over the past decade.

As younger people are spending more and more time online, the amount of real face-to-face interaction between people has decreased, which is another cause of depression.

The study notes the screens of smartphone emit a type of light that signals to the human brain that it’s morning, which makes it harder to fall asleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to feelings of depression.

Meanwhile, researchers at Rutgers University-Camden, using analysis of data from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, report that girls are more often bullied than boys and are more likely to consider, plan or attempt suicide.

Debra Wentz, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, confirms that thoughts of suicide, depression and bullying are up by a 52% in teens over the past decade.

In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 1 in 5 teenage girls had experienced major depression in the previous year. Rates of psychological distress rose by 71% among people ages 18 to 25.

Wentz noted when it comes to bullying, teen girls tend to be more subtle than boys, which means they are more sensitive to “exclusion from a group or clique, rumors that are spread about them." With boys, it's  "much more overt — it’s physical.”

Wentz pointed out most teens will only post positive types of news about themselves on social media sites, which can lead to the impression they have great lives, and that can have a negative impact on those who may already have leanings toward depression.

But she stressed that increased online activity of any type can contribute to depression.

“It isolates rather than connects adolescents and they’re having fewer real in-person interactions," she said. “They are becoming desensitized, and then those who really are in need of human contact and reassurance are further isolated.”

At the same time Wentz, believes “increased depression and anxiety ... are related to having to deal with so much in such a complex world."

“You know you’re constantly reading about shootings, natural disasters, bombings, terrorism.”

And many times there’s nobody around to talk to about these events.

“Families are working multiple shifts and different hours and they’re spread more now geographically," she said.

“We really have to reintroduce that human element,” she said.

Wentz also recommends lessons on bullying should begin in pre-school, so kids can be taught early on it is unacceptable.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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