High social media use may increase the chance for depression; Study

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
Depressed Woman
Representational Image

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has reported that young adults who increased their social media usage are considerably more likely to fall into depression within six months. 

The research which shows a link between social media usage and depression over time revealed that young adults who used more than 300 minutes per day are 2.8 times as likely to become depressed within six months compared to individuals who used social media for less than 120 minutes per day.

Commenting on the inferences from the study, Prof. Brian Primack from the University of Arkansas in the US, the author of the study stated that “We know from other large studies that depression and social media usage 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,” Prof. Primack added.

A team of researchers approached more than 1,000 US adults between 18 and 30 years of age for the study and measured their depression using the validated nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire while asking them about the amount of time they spend on various social media on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

The team went through an analysis which was controlled for demographic factors like age, sex, race, education, income and employment. Researchers also added survey weights so the results would reflect the greater US population.

The results from the study reveal that excess time on social media could replace more valuable in-person relationships, achieving personal or professional goals, or even simply having moments of valuable reflection.

The findings of this study carry considerable relevance given that depression was recently declared to be the leading global cause of disability by the World Health Organization (WHO) and accounts for more disability-adjusted life-years than all other mental disorders.

“These findings are also particularly important to consider in the age of COVID-19,” Prof. Primack observed.

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