Excessive Media and Little Sleep Can Put Teens At Risk For Mental Illness

A recent article in Medical News Today describes a research study that found certain risk factors for teens and the development of mental illness. The study revealed that teens who get little physical exercise, who do not get the adequate amount of sleep, and who spend large amounts of time in front of the television may be more at risk for psychological disorder.


The study included 12,395 teens from ages 14 to 16 years old and who were selected randomly from 11 different European schools. The researchers analyzed each of the participants for preexisting risk behaviors such as alcohol use, drug use, reduced sleep, high use of television, lack of exercise, and playing video games. They surveyed the students using the Global School Based Student Health Survey (GSHS). The study aimed to explore the connected between these behavioral factors and the presence of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and conduct disorders.


The survey revealed that there were essentially three categories by which the students could be categorized. The first, which made up 13% of the students, scored high on all the listed risk behaviors. The second group, which made up 58% of the students, had low or very little frequency of risk behaviors. Lastly, the third group was surprising for researchers. They found that this group, which was made up of 29% of students, did not have the typical risk behaviors that are often associated with mental illness such as drug use or smoking. Instead, students in this group exhibited behaviors such as getting little physical exercise, not getting enough sleep, and spending large amounts of time in front of the television or using technology.


The results were significant because typically teen mental illness is associated with other risk factors. Yet, the teenagers in the third group showed signs of suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. Surprisingly, this group turned out to be a high-risk group for mental illness. The researchers suggested that parents and caregivers should consider apparently less series risk behaviors as potential risk factors for mental illness. They commented:


In summary, the results of this study confirm the need for early prevention and intervention in the mental health field.


Also, parents can support their teens in a regular sleep schedule. Teens, or more specifically children between the ages of 10 to 17, need more than just 8 hours of sleep. It’s frequently known that adults need a full eight hours of sleep to feel rested and rejuvenated. But for children, who are still developing in a myriad ways, they need more sleep. In fact, children and teens need about 9 to 9 ½ hours of sleep each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is food for the brain. In teens, the brain is ablaze in its growth. Neurons are forming new connections and the prefrontal cortex, responsible for logical reasoning and thought processing, is also developing. For all these reasons, the teen brain needs its sleep.


Furthermore, social media and the use of technology are clearly playing a role in mental illness. Although they aren’t causing mental illness, it can certainly contribute to an already rocky mind. For example, if a teen is constantly bombarded with texting communication, and he or she feels pressured to answer right away, then the interruption to a thought might erase that thought altogether. He or she might not be able to return to the task at hand, perhaps losing vital information or glossing over material necessary to do well in class.


Parents and caregivers can help prevent mental illness in their children by watching the amount of sleep they are getting as well as the length of time they are watching television and their use of technology.





Whitman, H. (February 5, 2014). Lack of sleep and exercise, too much TV affects teens’ mental health. Medical News Today. Retrieved on August 14, 2014 from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/272178.php