July 31, 2021
By Jonathan Haidt and Jean M. Twenge
The authors are psychologists who have spent years studying the effect of smartphones and social media on our daily lives and mental health.
As students return to school in the coming weeks, there will be close attention to their mental health. Many problems will be attributed to the Covid pandemic, but in fact we need to look back further, to 2012.
That’s when rates of teenage depression, loneliness, self-harm and suicide began to rise sharply. By 2019, just before the pandemic, rates of depression among adolescents had nearly doubled.
When we first started to see these trends in our work as psychologists studying Gen Z (those born after 1996), we were puzzled. The U.S. economy was steadily improving over these years, so economic problems stemming from the 2008 Great Recession were not to blame. It was difficult to think of any other national event from the early 2010s that reverberated through the decade.