Emily Rice Published

Surgeon General Issues Advisory On Social Media And Youth Mental Health

Hands are seen grasping a glowing cellphone screen.Towfiqu Photography/Getty Images

The U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory Tuesday on social media’s effect on youth mental health. Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that require the nation’s immediate awareness and action.

The advisory states that up to 95 percent of youth ages 13 to 17 report using a social media platform, with more than a third saying they use social media “almost constantly.”

While the advisory acknowledges some positives to social media, like accessibility to those with similar interests and a sense of community, it also warned against dangers including risks in adolescents, ages 10 to 19, who are undergoing a highly sensitive period of brain development.

A study of adolescents aged 12 to 15, cited in the advisory, found that adolescents who spent more than three hours per day on social media faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Mental Health America (MHA) is a community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all.

MHA’s programs and initiatives fulfill its mission of promoting mental health and preventing mental illness through advocacy, education, research and services.

West Virginia ranked 39th in their findings from a study on youth with at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in 2022. 

The number of youth experiencing MDE increased by 306,000 (1.24 percent) from 2021’s MHA dataset. 

Nationally, 15.08 percent of youth report suffering from at least one MDE in the past year. That percentage was 16.62 percent in West Virginia or 21,000 young West Virginians.