American young females seem to be under more pressure and stress than people imagine. This Thursday, a study shocked the world by saying that young women between the ages of 10 and 24 are making more physical harm to themselves nowadays than twenty years ago. Although the reason is still unknown, the US scientists assured that the amount of girls harming their bodies has triplicated in the last decade.
This is not the first time health officials and other organizations warn about the immense number of women committing self-harm. Previous research has reported an increase in suicidal girl rates. However, this new study, published in JAMA by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, used data from women without specifying if they succeeded in taking their lives away, but rather if they attempted to do so.
The study particularly shows how more girls have been attending emergency rooms due to self-inflicted damage these last years than a decade ago. According to the researchers, these patients were reported having suffered from drug overdoses, poisonings, or cuttings – all three of them considered as strong indicators of suicide, the second leading cause of death between people aged 10 to 24 in 2015.
Suicide rates among both boys and girls have increased proportionally. But the number of boys between 10 to 24 years who have visited emergency rooms is similar to the one reported two decades ago.
Although nobody knows why young females are making more damage to themselves every day, or the reason why doctors have reported fewer boys visiting emergency rooms, some scientists believe that this increase might be because of the cyberbullying and economic stress after the 2008 recession.
“The time sequence fits: smartphone ownership, time spent online and on social media all increased for teens between 2010 and 2015,” says the author of the book iGen and psychology professor at San Diego State University, Dr. Jean Twenge. “At the same time that teens started spending more time on their phones, they started spending less time with friends in person, and less time sleeping, both of which we know are crucial to mental health.”
Girls are critically crying for help
The team used data from 66 hospital emergency rooms across the country, gathered between the years 2001 and 2015. According to the Associated Press, the ERs were visited by about 29,000 girls and 14,000 boys aged 10 to 24 with self-inflicted injuries.
It was once rare to hear that a young female had harmed herself in the 1990s. In fact, there was a time when boys used to provoke more pain to themselves than girls. But an April 2016 study demonstrated that, between 1999 and 2014, 1 out of 6,660 girls killed herself each year.
From 1993, just 1 per 1,000 young people was seen, for the first time, at an emergency room after self-harming themselves. But that number rose in 2008, when almost 10 out of 1,000 young teens went to an ER.
The number of people aged 10 to 24 that harmed themselves since 2009 is critical. However, the number is worse particularly among girls in the same period.
At the beginning of 2008, 110 per every 100,000 girls attended ER with self-inflicted wounds. But in 2015, the number had already triplicated to 318 out of 100,000 young females.
That final number would mean an 8.4 percent of yearly increase in just six years. But, to make it more alarming, the rates among girls aged 10 to 14 who asked for help in emergency rooms rose every year at least by 18.8 percent between 2009 and 2015.
Between 2009 and 2015, the majority of girls attended ERs after ingesting pills or poison, followed by girls who harmed themselves using sharp objects.
Smartphones might be causing this increase
Some researchers say that this increase might be because millenials, due to the smartphone rising, are more prone to mental health issues than those born before 1995. Others say the financial pressure from the recent recession affected young people in their early ages. However, Dr. Twenge disagrees.
According to Twenge, the economy grew in the country between the years 2010 and 2015. Also, teens spent exactly the same time doing homework, so they discarded academic stress.
“Some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression because of too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three,” she wrote.
Twenge said that almost 50 percent of teens had smartphones in 2012 – exactly the year in which suicide rates experienced one of its highest increases. In 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of teens had smartphones.
Moreover, Twenge wrote in her paper that those teens who spend more than five hours on the Internet have 71 percent more chances of having a suicide risk factor – such as depression – than those who only spend 1 hour per day.
She added that teens with mental health are part of every generation due to genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying, and trauma.