Mental Health

Link Between Social Media and Depression

A new national study led by Dr. Brian Primack, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions and professor of public health at the University of Arkansas, showed that young adults who increased their use of social media were more likely to grow depression within 6 months. Participants who used more than 300 minutes of social media per day were 2.8 times more likely to develop depression than those who used less than 120 minutes per day.

“Most prior work in this area has left us with the chicken-and-egg question,” said Primack. “We know from other large studies that depression and social media use tend to go together, but it’s been hard to figure out which came first. This new study sheds light on these questions, because high initial social media use led to increased rates of depression. However, initial depression did not lead to any change in social media use.”

In 2018, Primack and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh gathered more than 1,000 U.S. adults between 18 to 30 for the study. They measured the participants’ depression using the validated nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire and asked them the amount of time they spend on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. The investigation controlled for demographic factors and survey results were included in order for the results to reflect on the greater U.S. population.

“One reason for these findings may be that social media takes up a lot of time,” said Dr. Cesar Escobar-Viera, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and co-author on the study. “Excess time on social media may displace forming more important in-person relationships, achieving personal or professional goals, or even simply having moments of valuable reflection.”

The authors of the study suggests that social comparison may also be a significant cause for these results.

“Social media is often curated to emphasize positive portrayals,” said Jaime Sidani, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and co-author of the study. “This can be especially difficult for young adults who are at critical junctures in life related to identity development and feel that they can’t measure up to the impossible ideals they are exposed to.”

With depression recently being declared to be the leading global cause of disability by the World Health Organization, these results are of more particular importance.

“These findings are also particularly important to consider in the age of COVID-19,” Primack said. “Now that it’s harder to connect socially in person, we’re all using more technology like social media. While I think those technologies certainly can be valuable, I’d also encourage people to reflect on which tech experiences are truly useful for them and which ones leave them feeling empty.”

Image Source: ProcuraMed

Categories: Mental Health