Jonathan Haidt made another important point to the Senators that he has often made in print, namely, that this is not just an American problem. The same crisis has hit “many countries” not only the United States. That means that it cannot be blamed solely on problems unique to the US such as gun violence, particularly in schools. The cause must be broader than that. He then made a statement that should concern Canadians, namely that
“The patterns are nearly identical in the UK and Canada, and the trends are similar though not identical in Australia and New Zealand. We do not yet see signs of similar epidemics in continental Europe or in East Asia, although I have not yet found good data from those regions.”
Together with His associate researcher Jean Twenge, they had discovered
“a sudden increase between 2012 and 2015 in all regions of the world. These patterns indicate that whatever happened to American teens was not uniquely caused by trends and events in the USA (e.g., a sudden fear of school shootings after the Newtown massacre of 2012). The cause is likely to be something that affected teens in many or all regions of the world at the same time.”
This is a world wide problem, partly because social media is a world wide phenomenon.
Note in particular the sharp rise for Girls after 2020. In particular, between 2012 and 2020 The rates of major depression for girls more than doubled during this time. The increase for boys was not as high.
Most of the research is confined to the west, but by no means exclusively.
One must always bear in mind the scientific point often made, that correlation does not prove causation. For example, just because 80% of sex assaults are perpetrated by men who ate potatoes that day does not prove potatoes are a cause of sexual assaults.
First, Jonathan Haidt explained to the Senate Select Committee that “Correlational studies consistently show a link between heavy social media use and mood disorders, but the size of the relationship is disputed.”
Haidt then drilled down:
“Nearly all studies find a correlation, and it is usually curvilinear. That is, moving from no social media use to one or two hours a day is often not associated with an increase in poor mental health, but as usage rises to 3 or 4 hours a day, the increases in mental illness often become quite sharp.”
The graphs are quite explicit. To see them go to the reports. The message is loud and clear. The more young people use social media the more they suffer from serious depression and anxiety and the more likely they are to attempt to commit suicide. Haidt puts it this, contrary to what some of his critics have said, “The correlation is much larger than for “eating potatoes” or “wearing glasses.”
This is a big deal. We should all take note but particularly our political leaders who have the capacity to respond. This is not something that should be swept under the rug.