Some of Us R Not OK: The Decline in Youth Mental Health

Authors: Rose Khattar and Gianni La Cava

Youth mental health has been on the decline since the early 2010s. Is social media to blame? We shed new light on this question by analysing drivers of mental health in a submission to the Joint Select Committee on Social Media and Australian Society.

We find that:

  • Declines in self-reported mental health since the early 2010s are strongly associated with when an individual was born and how lonely they feel.
  • Young women born since the late 1990s report much lower levels of mental health and friendship connections than their male counterparts and other generations.
  • Women and girls aged 15 to 24 report the highest shares of using social media and doing so at least on most days.

Young women’s mental health began falling sharply after 2012 – a time that coincides with pivotal moments in the social media landscape, such as the launch and widespread popularity of Instagram and Snapchat. While our research suggests that social media may have a role to play, more data are needed to establish a causal link between social media use and mental health.