Girls more depressed & you can blame social media

stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170On the face of it today’s young people have never had it so good. Teenage pregnancies are down, fewer of them smoke and they drink less than previous generations.

So what have they got to be depressed about?

Well they spend an awful lot of time on social media, posting selfies, seeking approval from others. “Like me, like me” they seem to beg.

It’s a recipe for disaster and means they are continually comparing themselves with others. And it’s all artificial.

They spend hours making themselves up for selfies. I’ve taken loads of photographs at parties and invariably the women want to check the photos to make sure they’re OK.

Whether its posting selfies or posting posed photos on Facebook using cats, cuddly toys and even their babies as accessories, it’s all about wanting approval. Over half of teenagers are said to spend more than three hours a day on social media. (I’ve posted before about my views on Facebook)

And this is the most risk-averse generation we’ve seen for ages and maybe that’s part of the problem. No-one dares misbehave any more in case it gets on social media (as it will) and is then held against them later in life e.g. at job interviews.

It’s been said that young people work harder at schools. I don’t believe that for one minute. Exams are easier, course work is often group work and there has been such grade inflation over the years (at all levels in the education system) that you can’t rely on the grading system.

Nonetheless there has been a 10% increase in girls being treated for depression and a 50% increase in self-harming. For boys there has been a decrease over the same 10 year period.

The psychological distress reported includes sleep loss, inability to concentrate, feeling unhappy and worthless. Girls report suffering these twice as much as boys (30% of girls).

Whether or not social media is totally to blame it clearly plays a part. The head of the charity Sane believes the internet has played a huge part. No longer can students get relief from school or peer pressure at home. It’s now always-on.

But lets not forget pushy parents. Kids from better off families report higher levels of stress and anxiety. Lower status children seem to suffer less – perhaps because they have lower expectations, or maybe because they are more resilient.

Schools which have banned smartphones report better results. Parents need to think about reducing screen time and switching off the wi-fi.

As I’ve posted before about smartphone users – Get a Life!

The government has promised to put £1.4 billion into providing mental health support for young people. Maybe we should start helping them closer to home.

 

Ditch your smartphone, get out in the countryside, and feel better about yourself

icon_flow_smart_phone_loop_500_wht_9550

Nature lovers are significantly less anxious and have higher self-esteem than people obsessed with their smartphones according a recent study.

They are also more conscientious, emotionally stable and more open to new experiences than those addicted to technology.

The on-line research at the University of Derby examined people’s mobile phone use and their connection to nature. Participants were also assessed on their personality and self-esteem

It found that those most in touch with nature used their phone half as much each day as the rest of the population and were more emotionally balanced i.e. 2 hrs 15 mins each day (which seems a lot to me) compared to 4 hrs 8 mins for those less connected to nature.

They also took 87% fewer selfies but three times as many pictures of nature.  So we can probably assume that they are also less narcissistic.

Miles Richardson, head of psychology, said “Nature connectedness isn’t about going back to some halcyon days where we lived in harmony with nature. It’s about realising our place in a wider ecology here and now

I’ve posted on this topic several times over the past few years and my message is still the same. Forget the smartphone (and social media) and get a life!

Happiness gap widens in Britain

figure_holding_happy_sad_signs_1600_wht_10227On average people in Britain are happier than ever rating their happiness at 7.5 out of 10 according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Personal well-being has improved every year since 2012 suggesting people are feeling more positive about life.

However there is also slight growth in inequality between people who rate their lives highly and those who report low levels (below 4 out of 10).

The survey started in 2011/12 and people are asked to rate their overall satisfaction with life, feeling that the things they do are worthwhile, their happiness, and their level of anxiety.

Experts say that happiness levels often fall during periods of rapid change, for example during the recession which started in 2007/8, and that only now do people feel an improvement in their personal well-being. Areas with higher unemployment e.g. the northeast and Humberside, have shown no change in their low levels of well-being.

The northwest is the region with the largest average improvement in life satisfaction, being worthwhile, and happiness, over the last two years.

The happiest areas

  1. Fermanagh & Omagh, Northern Ireland
  2. Ribble Valley, Lancashire
  3. Eilean Siar, Outer Hebrides
  4. West Somerset
  5. Orkney Islands

Unhappiest areas

  1. Bolsover, Derbyshire
  2. Cannock Chase, Staffordshire
  3. Dundee City
  4. Dover
  5. Liverpool

You’ve heard of FOMO, now it’s FOBO

woman_cellphone_talk_1600_wht_7922FOBO – Fear of being off-line.

Previously we had FOMO – fear of missing out and “nomophobia” – fear of being without your phone.

People are becoming increasingly obsessed with their smartphones. You see people walking around with them in their hands rather than putting them in their pocket or bag.

In restaurants they put them on the table by their plate. They take them to the bathroom with them (how many people have dropped their phones down the loo?). They keep them switched on under their pillow at night.

At the sound of an alert they rush to see who is calling, texting or e-mailing, breaking off from conversations and interrupting their work.

If they haven’t had an alert for a while they will need to check the phone anyway. And if the battery goes flat it’s panic stations. Then they might resort to stealing electricity on a train or going on-stage to plug into a (fake) socket – both true stories.

Last year Iowa State University of Science and Technology carried out a survey to judge the extent of nomophobia or smartphone separation anxiety.

People said they would feel “worried and nervous” if their family and friends couldn’t contact them instantly and feel “annoyed and uncomfortable” without constant access to information via a smartphone and they would be “scared” if they had a flat battery.

According to a recent Gallup poll 81% of smartphone users keep them near them almost all the time during waking hours and 63% do so even when they are asleep. 75% of users log on before they do anything else in the morning and 1 in 10 checks e-mails immediately after sex!

Dr Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University thinks we’re all suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). he believes our relationship with our smartphoes are causing us to suffer from anxiety-based disorders (see recent post on smartphones and depression). We need the constant checking to re-assure ourselves.

He refers to the locus of control, a psychological concept related to how we run our lives. Do we let the smartphone control us or do we control it?

His students tested an app which measured how many times they unlocked their phones each day and how long they spent on them. They averaged 60-70 times a day for an average of 3 minutes – that’s checking eight times an hour and spending at least 3 hours a day on their phones.

Studies have shown how anxious people get if they have to have their phones switched off even for just 10 minutes. Not being allowed to answer a phone when it rang raised heart rates.

Young people believe they can multi-task, each succeeding generation claiming more and more multi-tasking ability which is nonsense.

What’s to be done? Professor Rosen doesn’t believe digital detoxing works i.e. a cold turkey approach not using your phone for several days. He recommends a technology break approach. Check your phone for a minute then switch off for 15 minutes. Gradually increase it to 20 minutes and then 30 and so on. Gradually weaning yourself off the “always on” mentality.

You could also try just answering or checking your phone when you feel like it. That means you are in control. That’s my approach but I’d happily provide cold turkey treatment for some people I know!

He also says don’t check your phone first thing in the morning Wait until you’ve showered, had breakfast etc. Even better wait until you get to work. And don’t check the phone during the night as it interrupts your sleep patterns.

He says “My hope is that people will start spending more quality time with people in front of them rather than the people contained in that box. Because of this omnipresent device we’re not allowing ourselves to have these human experiences.

I also hope that this will free our brains from the neurotransmitters that signal anxiety because we know that constant levels of anxiety are just not good for us. They eventually lead to anxiety-based disorders. We don’t want to become OCD. We don’t want to constantly check. We don’t want to feel driven by something outside of us” (having an external locus of control).

In other words get a life!

41WD+tWmpAL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Professor Rosen wrote “iDisorderUnderstanding our obsession with technology and overcoming its hold on us” (2012) and his new book, due out next year, is “The Distracted Mind”

Source: The Times Body & Soul section

Excessive use of your mobile phone might mean you’re depressed

walking_while_texting_500_wht_7820Researchers have found that monitoring a person’s mobile phone for signs of depression is more accurate than asking people to complete a daily happiness questionnaire (reported in The Times).

There is a marked difference in usage between people who are depressed and those who are not with people who had been diagnosed with depression spending four time longer on their smartphones each day.

The researchers at Northwestern University near Chicago used a computer programme called Purple Robot. It kept track over two weeks of the mobile phone use (excluding phone calls) of 40 people, 14 of whom had been diagnosed with depression.

The study measured how long they spent at home, how many other places they had visited and how long their phones were active.

Those with depression used their phones used their phones an average of 68 minutes a day compared with only 17 minutes for those without the condition.

The programme was able to identify those who had been diagnosed as having depression with 87% accuracy. Researchers also thought it could also indicate how severe it was.

Psychologists have thought that excessive use of mobile phones and stressing about technology could be linked to depression but have relied on self-reporting rather than objective measures such as the Purple Robot programme (developed by computer scientist Sohrob Saeb).

Previous research has shown how much we are beginning to depend on our smart phones and how obsessed we can become.

Stephen Schueller, professor in preventatve medicine at the university, said many people used their phones to try to rid themselves of negative emotions such as boredom or anxiety.

Phones are excellent sources of distraction. I imagine that people are probably not using their phones to reach out and call people when they’re depressed

The research has been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research and more research is planned to see if there are specific behaviours that can predict symptoms and also how exactly depressed people use their phones (the research didn’t differentiate between texting, e-mails and other uses).

Dr Saeb also wants to investigate if it’s possible to ease some aspects of depression by encouraging people with depression to use their phone differently. “We will see if we can reduce symptoms of depression by encouraging people to visit more locations throughout the day, have a more regular routine, sped more time in a variety of places, or reduce phone use

Soft Southerners?

stick_figure_sitting_on_pills_1600_wht_13337According to an Atlas of Mental Health created by CentreForum think tank people living in the South of England re more likely to say they are unhappy despite having lower levels of mental illness including depression.

People living in London Bedford, Milton Keynes, Brighton, and parts of Kent claim to be the unhappiest in the country – yet they have some of the lowest levels of diagnosed mental health problems.

Five of Britain’s unhappiest 20 places were in London including the borough of Barking and Dagenham which came in the top five on two measures of unhappiness and yet had the 23rd lowest level of mental health problems.

In the league table of areas with the highest long-term mental health problems only Brighton & Hove (which came 3rd in the table) and Nottingham (7th) were outside the North and North West.  The other worst areas in descending order were: Middlesborough, Blackpool, Manchester, Stockton on Tees, Knowsley, Nottingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Salford

Northern areas tend to receive less support for mental health issues and in some areas people are 4 times more likely to die from a mental health problem.

Poor mental health often leads to a poor diet, heavy drinking and smoking, all of which can lead to cancer or heart disease.

One in six adults suffers from mental illness such as depression or anxiety at some time in their lives.

 

It’s not fair – bullies do better in life!

bullying_a_kid_1600_wht_9049There is lots of research to show that being bullied in childhood can have lifelong negative effects with such victims more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression in adulthood.

You’d like to think that bullies would get their comeuppance but recent research shows that bullies can reap social benefits by dominating those around them.

This might also boost their physical and psychological health in the long term.

The research was carried out using 20 years of data from over 1,400 people by scientists at Duke University in North Carolina and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences..

The participants were interviewed during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. The scientist also took blood samples to look for a protein marker (CRP) which is a good predictor of someone developing heart disease.

Bullies had the lowest CRP levels, even lower than those who had never been bullied.

Bullying is not the only ways to gain status and research in both the USA AND the UK showed that standing up to bullies was good for you.