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"The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."

- Molière

As we continue our survey of humanity’s ability to overcome grand challenges and look at the road ahead, it’s clear that our problem-solving journey is far from over.

Before us are multiple old, unsolved challenges, as well as new ones that demand our attention, our capital, and our most brilliant minds.

These include everything from the looming climate crisis and the threat of bioterrorism to nuclear war and the dangers posed by rapidly advancing AI. Over the next few blogs in this Scaling Abundance series, we’ll explore each of these in detail.

Today, we’ll look at a specific problem unique to our era: the negative effects of social media on mental health.

Let’s dive in…


Social Media, Technology & Mental Health 

In the summer of 2017, Jean Twenge, a seasoned psychologist at San Diego State University, ignited a heated debate in the field of psychology.

Her research, which included data spanning back to the 1930s, focused on generational trends. When she delved into the mental health data for teenagers starting in 2011, she was taken aback. A distinct and troubling pattern emerged: anxiety, depression, and loneliness all seemed to spike around 2011 and 2012. Twenge hypothesized that the culprit was the burgeoning prevalence of smartphones.                                                  

During an interview with NPR, Twenge stated, "Smartphones were used by the majority of Americans around 2012, and that's the same time loneliness increases." Many of her contemporaries were skeptical and critical, claiming her data was too tenuous to draw such broad conclusions, and that she was causing undue panic among parents.

However, in 2023, armed with a new book and robust data, Twenge's warnings feel more poignant than ever.

Twenge's new book, Generations, reveals a dramatic shift in the way teenagers utilize their leisure time. Analyzing data from the 1970s to the present, she found that the time teens spent socializing in person remained fairly stable until 2004. It then started to decline slightly but experienced a significant drop after 2010. Around this time, smartphone ownership skyrocketed, with around 50% of American adults owning one by 2012. Simultaneously, the use of social media became nearly ubiquitous among teenagers, rising from 50% in 2009 to a whopping 95% in 2022. The study also found a startling statistic: 22% of 10th grade girls spent seven or more hours daily on social media.

This digital immersion has tangible consequences, notably impacting sleep, a fundamental pillar of mental health. Twenge found that between 2010 and 2021, the percentage of 10th and 12th graders getting seven or less hours of sleep a night rose from a third to nearly half. This sleep deprivation is linked with increased risks of anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) validates Twenge's findings. They report that the suicide rate among 10 to 24-year-olds remained stable from 2000 to 2007 but then increased by 57% between 2007 and 2017.

Twenge isn't alone in her concerns. Chris Said, a data scientist who has worked at Facebook and Twitter/X, has likened the impact of social media on teen social life to a nuclear bomb, stating that there's nothing in recent history that has reshaped teen socialization as much as social media.

The growing concern over the mental health effects of social media culminated in a report by US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in May 2023. Labeling youth mental health "the defining public health issue of our time," he called for decisive action to safeguard our children.

And this issue isn’t confined to the US—it’s global. An Amnesty International survey spanning 45 countries found that 74% of young people aged 13-24 checked their social media accounts more frequently than they would like, with over half reporting negative experiences.

Even Bhutan, often hailed as the “Happy Kingdom,” isn't immune. This small Himalayan nation introduced television in 1999 and the internet soon after. Yet, today, over 90% of Bhutanese use at least one social media app, and they spend an average of 163 minutes online daily. Evidence suggests this digital immersion is eroding social cohesion, with around 83% of Bhutanese attributing family problems to social media use. Bhutan, which once topped the World Happiness Report, ranked 97th in 2023.

The bottom line is that mental health issues are real, increasing, and need our immediate attention, through both policy and innovation.


Why This Matters

While I remain optimistic about our ability to solve humanity’s pressing challenges, the mental health crisis resulting from social media is one of the biggest issues that needs near-term solutions.

Such solutions could combine technological advancements with robust regulation.

Technological innovation offers promising avenues. For instance, empathic AI systems could act as digital guardians, monitoring and moderating the content consumed by our youth. These advanced algorithms, designed with psychological insight, can filter out harmful content, fostering a safer online environment.

Another innovative approach is the development of AI-driven platforms that offer engaging content that is both inspiring and uplifting. Such systems could counterbalance the negativity often prevalent online, offering our children a more positive and nurturing digital space.

On the policy front, the urgency is equally palpable. Policymakers have a pivotal role in fortifying safety standards and ensuring children's privacy is uncompromised in digital realms. Investing in digital and media literacy education is crucial, equipping the younger generation with the skills to navigate the complex online world responsibly. Moreover, additional funding for research can illuminate further the intricate relationship between technology and mental health, guiding future interventions.

Regardless of how it happens, solutions are needed soon.

In the coming blogs, we’ll continue to dissect these formidable challenges that I call “Category 2 Problems.” These are real, present problems that require the attention of our best and brightest innovators.

Some of these Category 2 Problems have solutions within our grasp, ready to be seized.

Others will not, and therefore are concerning, demanding us to embrace crazy ideas, innovate, and think unconventionally.

But as we navigate this conversation, let's not forget: each problem is a veiled opportunity—a steppingstone towards a better world.



I wanted to take a second to tell you about a company I'm personally invested in and that is a part of my personal health optimization: Seed Health, a microbiome science company that is doing incredible research (which you’ll hear more about from me and on the podcast in the coming months). Seed is most known for their innovations and clinical research in probiotics—especially DS-01®, which I take and believe is the best probiotic available.

Unlike our genome, our gut microbiome is one of the most important levers of health given its connectivity to almost every biological function and organ system. How can you optimize your gut health? In addition to diet and other lifestyle choices, here’s what I do: 

Every day, I take two capsules of Seed’s DS-01® Daily Synbiotic: a broad spectrum 2-in-1 probiotic and prebiotic formulated with 24 genetically distinct clinically- and scientifically-studied probiotic strains and a polyphenol-based prebiotic. 

Developed from a deep understanding of the complex interactions within the microbiome, DS-01® confers benefits in and beyond the gut. This novel synbiotic preserves ecosystem function, fortifies the gut barrier, promotes healthy regularity, reinforces an optimal gut-skin axis, promotes cardiovascular health, and supports healthy immunological responses in the GI tract. 

The specific prebiotic is sourced from the skin of Indian pomegranate and has also been clinically validated to support healthy aging, including the reduction of aging markers like the appearance of wrinkles. Unlike most fiber-based prebiotics, Seed’s is non-fermenting which makes it gentler on the stomach and tolerable for a FODMAP diet. 

In contrast with most probiotics, DS-01® is engineered to survive with Seed’s patented capsule-in-capsule ViaCap® technology that optimizes viability and delivers a precision release to the colon, where it matters most. This technology also ensures stability, so there’s no refrigeration required. 

Known for their renowned scientists in the field of microbiome and probiotics, Seed’s scientific rigor and ongoing research have set them apart from others. DS-01® strains have been clinically studied in over 20 clinical and mechanistic studies. Two clinical trials evaluating the DS-01® formulation have recently been completed: one assessing the impact of DS-01® on patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) under Investigational New Drug authorization from the FDA; and another evaluating the effects of DS-01® on the gut microbiota during and after antibiotic usage (under Health Canada authorization). This new data is anticipated to be published in high-impact scientific journals in the coming six months. 

I value Seed's scientific rigor and the company's work. This is why I believe DS-01® is so effective and has become the probiotic of choice not just for me, but for so many other people I respect. 

As part of my mission to help my community optimize their health, we’ve worked with Seed to create a code for our readers. Use code PETER25 for 25% off your first month of Seed’s DS-01®.

Learn More About Seed's DS-01®

I discuss the latest advances in biotech and longevity science on my podcast. Here’s a conversation I recently enjoyed:

A Statement From Peter:

My goal with this newsletter is to inspire leaders to play BIG. If that’s you, thank you for being here. If you know someone who can use this, please share it. Together, we can uplift humanity.

Peter H. Diamandis

Written by Peter H. Diamandis


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