Just over 7% of US adults have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. While this number is high, what is even more surprising is that the number of Millennial’s suffering from depression is on the rise.
Looking at Millennial’s versus the previous generation, the prevalence of depression is up by 18%.
What is a millennial?
Millennial’s were born between 1982 and 2000 and makeup 25% of the US population. They prioritize family over work and will trade higher pay for a better work/life balance. They are often confident, ambitious, and achievement-oriented. This generation is the fastest growing segment in the workforce. They came of age during the internet explosion, and they are extremely tech-savvy, making them highly sought after by more and more companies. They are a generation that is plugged in 24/7 and can’t imagine a world without constant connectivity.
What is the cause of depression?
Many experts are pointing the finger at this constant connectivity as the reason for the rise in depression. Dr. Daniel Bober, Medical Director at Lifeskills South Florida, agrees, “Phones have almost become an appendage for this age group and people develop a panic when they are not with their phones. They need constant reinforcement and they can’t digital unplug.”
Research shows that Millennial’s are first to jump on the technology bandwagon as they are 2.5 times more likely to be an early adopter of technology than other generations. Just over 56% they are usually either one of the very first to try new technology or are among the first group to try new technology.
The fear of missing out on seeing things people do or say on social media is playing a large role in the development of depression. Dr. Bober agrees, stating, “Our digital lives have become more important than our real lives. For Millennial’s, it has almost become another job.” Social media importance is shown in the number of accounts Millennial’s hold in comparison to other generations.
Social media is used to share with and inspire others, it is the medium for Millennial’s to express who they are, the place to connect to others, and to find brands and causes they support. While these all seem like good reasons, just as Dr. Bober states, it is a place to set unrealistic standards.
Social media is a significant tool for influencing others and placing value on the perfect life. How does this contribute to depression? The nature of social media lends itself toward comparison, as we often judge ourselves against others highlight reels of success and happiness. For some, they may paint an unrealistic picture of how they think their lives should be. The negative comparison of a curated image of those who appear prettier, more popular, or more successful takes a toll on self-esteem. In fact, Instagram is proven to be the social media platform that leads to more feelings of anxiety, depression, and negative body image.
Experts agree that social media is reducing social connections, and leading to more social isolation, which is a key risk factor in developing depressive symptoms. The superficial the connection provided by social media is causing individuals to spend less time in authentic relationships. The constant need to be updated is triggering a prioritization of online interactions that are less rewarding than real ones. Social connections play a vital role in mental health.
Physical activity is also being hindered by the endless connection to technology. Lack of physical activity is proven to lead to heightened depressive symptoms. More time connected to devices means less time spent doing things that make us feel good about ourselves.
How do we ease depression?
Dr. Bober pointed out that one key in helping to reduce depression is to unplug from technology. In addition, it is important to focus on balance and find activities that help to build individual identity and self-confidence. Disengage from interactions that increase stress and unhappiness. Digitally unplug and separate yourself from technology.
If you or someone you love is experiencing depressive symptoms that are making it difficult to function, Lifeskills South Florida can help. We use evidence-based interventions to help you develop the coping skills you need for a successful recovery. In a healing environment, we customize a treatment plan to meet the specific and unique needs of individuals with depression. Our program can help individuals integrate back into a home, family, and work life.