Study claims excessive smartphone use may increase suicide risk in teens

New Delhi: While technology has certainly made life convenient, it is also a major contributor of numerous health issues, especially among the youngsters.

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According to a study, teenagers who spend more time on smartphones and other electronic screens may be at the risk of developing depression and suicidal tendencies.

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While excessive smartphone use has previously been linked to sleep deprivation in teenagers, some studies have also highlighted their impact on teens’ mental health.

A recent study also said that spending more time on cellphones, tablets or playing computer games increases the risk of depressive disorders or induces suicidal tendencies in teenagers.

The new study, conducted by researchers from the Florida State University in the US, said screen time should be considered a modern-day risk factor for depression and suicide.

“There is a concerning relationship between excessive screen time and risk for death by suicide, depression, suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts,” said Thomas Joiner, from the Florida State University.

“All of those mental health issues are very serious. I think it’s something parents should ponder,” he said.

The researchers discovered that 48 percent of teenagers who spent five or more hours per day on electronic devices reported a suicide-related behaviour. That compared to 28 percent of adolescents who spent less than an hour using electronic devices.

The results, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, clearly showed that teens who spent more time on the devices were more likely to be unhappy.

Those who focused more on non-screen activities like sports and exercise, talking to friends face to face, doing homework and going to church were more likely to be happy.

Depression and suicide rates for teens between the ages of 13 and 18 increased dramatically since 2010, especially among girls, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study identified excessive use of electronic devices as a likely culprit.

According to CDC statistics, the suicide rate increased 31 percent among teenagers from 2010 to 2015, while a national survey shows that the number of adolescents reporting symptoms of severe depression rose 33 percent.

Those increases were largely driven by teenage girls. Their suicide rate soared 65 percent and those suffering severe depression increased 58 percent.

The rate of suicide-related behaviours – feeling hopeless, thinking about suicide or attempting it – increased 14 percent.