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The Teen Mental Health Crisis, Part 1

We’re in the midst of a serious teen mental health crisis. The number of teenagers and young adults with clinical depression more than doubled between 2011 and 2021. The suicide rate for teenagers nearly doubled from 2007 to 2019, and tripled for 10- to 14-year- olds in particular. According to the C.D.C., nearly 25 percent of teenage girls made a suicide plan in 2021. What’s going on in the lives of teenagers that has produced such a startling uptick?

Jean Twenge, a research psychologist and author of the books “iGen” and “Generations,” has spent years poring over mental health statistics and survey data trying to answer this question. In her view, the story in the data is clear: Our teenage mental health crisis is the direct product of the rise of smartphones and social media.

So I wanted to have Twenge on the show to elicit and interrogate her argument. What is the actual evidence for the smartphone thesis? How do we account for the fact that teenage girls and liberals are having far worse outcomes than boys and conservatives? What about alternate explanations for this crisis, like meritocratic pressure, the economy, school shootings and climate change? And if Twenge is right that the culprit is smartphones, then what can we do to address that problem?

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

Listen to this podcast in New York Times Audio, our new iOS app for news subscribers. Download now at nytimes.com/audioapp

Mentioned:

We’re Missing a Key Driver of Teen Anxiety” by Derek Thompson

The Paradox of Wealthy Nations’ Low Adolescent Life Satisfaction” by Robert Rudolf and Dirk Bethmann

Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” by the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory

Book Recommendations:

The Problem With Everything by Meghan Daum

What’s Our Problem? by Tim Urban

Nine Ladies by Heather Moll

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Annie Galvin. Fact checking by Michelle Harris and Mary Marge Locker. Mixing by Jeff Geld. Our production team is Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld, Roge Karma and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. And special thanks to Efim Shapiro and Kristina Samulewski.

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