Sex, drugs and… depression?

A new study released by the CDC in the US found that fewer teens are having sex and doing drugs. 39.5% of teens reported ever having sex, down from 47.8% in 2007 and 57% in 1988. Illegal drug use seems to be following the same trend as sex. Less of it. 14% of teens reported ever using illegal drugs compared to almost 23% in 2007. That’s a big drop. Now for the bad news. Those who are having sex report lower rates of condom use than in years past. And depression. 31.5% of teens reported “persistent feelings of sadness or loneliness” compared to 28.5% in 2007. So, let’s get this straight… less sex, less drug use, more depression. I’m certain there’s a joke in there somewhere but ending up with more depression is a terrible punchline. Some hypothesize that the growing use of social media—you know, the thing that’s supposed to connect people—is leading to increased social isolation. Frowny-face emoji.

Major depression on the rise

The rates of major depression in the United States is increasing, especially among teens and young adults. Blue Cross Blue Shield examined its 41 million member records from 2016 and found 4.4% had received a major depression diagnosis, up 33% from 2013. At 2.6%, the raw number was lower among teens, but the percent increase was substantially larger at 63%. Dr. Laurel Williams, Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, believes this has something to do with the substantial time kids are spending in from of screens and the social isolation that results. Hopefully, at least a portion of the increase is coming from teens, parents, and healthcare workers simply being more aware of mental health issues, leading to increased rates of diagnosis. Fingers crossed. But just in case, here are 10 tips for minimizing kid’s screen time.

Wild thoughts

Most people feel sleepy, grumpy, or dopey when they haven’t gotten enough hours of sleep. A new study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry puts forth a theory on why sometimes less sleep can also lead us to be more depression-y and anxious-y. Their research takes aim at a common symptom of those conditions known as repetitive negative thoughts (RNT), which is basically your mind being a jerk and not letting you stop thinking about bad things. Using eye-tracking technology, they showed volunteers positive, negative, and neutral images, and found that volunteers fixated on the negative images longer and more intensely than the neutral and positive ones. They blame a lack of cognitive resources caused by not enough sleep for their inability to filter negative thoughts.

A hissing in your ear that sounds like ‘SSRI’

Here’s some news that’s not exactly music to the ears of the 60 percent of tinnitus sufferers with depression; a study published in Cell Reports identified that SSRIs may exacerbate symptoms of tinnitus. The scientists focused on how neurons in mice’s sensory processing centers were affected by serotonin, and found that when those neurons get their drug fix they reach Tommy Boy levels of excitement. Unfortunately, that translates into increased sensitivity to sound, which is not great when you’ve already got a bunch of sounds in your ears to begin with. The research may mean that tinnitus patients will have to turn to other antidepressant types, which are generally recognized as less safe/side-effect-laden than SSRIs.

Broccoli bumming you out?

There may be a reason for that. Forbes reports on a study of vegetarian and vegan men in the UK that found these men scored higher on depression scales and were more likely to be depressed than their carnivorous counterparts. Among several possible explanations, researchers theorize that lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and folate (whatever that is)—all previously linked to depression—may be the culprits. So remember: asparagus bad, giant turkey leg good. InsightCity regrets deeply not reaching out to Arby’s for sponsorship prior to running this article. Here’s a description of their Meat Mountain sandwich. This writer’s status: conflicted. Related FastPoll™ below!

Super Prozac is on the way

When depression sufferers get put on an SSRI regimen (the most common type of antidepressant), it can be a bit tedious. These meds can take a while to be effective, which is not ideal for obvious reasons. Imagine having a stiff back for months, finally realizing you can take something for it, and then taking that medicine for days before getting any relief. Fortunately, new research could lead to faster, more effective antidepressants. Rockefeller University scientists described how SSRIs initiate action on nerve cells for the first time, which means innovators will be able to design better SSRIs on account of the whole now-we-actually-know-how-it-works thing. Here’s some more drugs we’ve been giving people for years even though we don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

Eh, what’s up bot?

Feeling blue but don’t have the time/money/energy to go see a professional therapist? Or do you just hate interacting with people? Woebot may be just the “fully automated conversational agent” (AKA chatbot) you’re looking for. Chatbots are popping up all over, but this one has some research to back up its claims of being able to reduce depression. For $39 a month, Woebot will check in on you once a day and ask some simple, judgement free questions about how you’re doing. If you cancel your Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime subscriptions, you can easily pay for this service and an extra latte or two. If you watch all of those, that might be a major source of the problem. This writer does what he can to help, free of charge.