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Social Media Usage Linked to Teen Depression

17 July 2019

The teenage years are a time of considerable brain changes and inevitable emotional turmoil.

The researchers found that high levels of social media use over four years was associated with increased depression - and each one-hour increase in the average time students said they spent on social media was associated with an increase in the severity of depression symptoms within that same year.

Higher-than-average social media use and time in front of the television were associated with more severe symptoms of depression.

Now, another research in the fray has come up with concrete data illustrating the ill-effects of social media on the mental health of teenagers. Those researchers concluded using social media less would significantly decrease feelings of depression and loneliness.

Researchers also found evidence that social media - and not other screen-based activities - may promote depressive symptoms in those already suffering them, through a reinforcing spiral process.

"The biggest surprise for me was that video gaming and depression were not related at all over the course of four years", he said.

"The algorithmic features of television viewing and, in particular, social media, create and maintain a feedback loop by suggesting similar content to users based on their previous search and selection behaviour". First, there was "Upward Social Comparison", the idea that social media can harm people's self-esteem as they are bombarded with highlight reels of other people's lives.

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on teen depression.

During the study, the researchers followed nearly 4,000 Canadian teenagers from ages 12 to 16 years.

Dr. Gary Maslow, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Duke Health and assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said in January that he often points his patients' families to the American Academy of Pediatrics for tips on how to establish healthy social media habits at home.

Conrod said her research showed that social media could have a particularly negative impact, as young people are presented with "very idealized images of what the lives of young people are like and presented through social media with images from their own peers". "Thus, the more one's depressive state influences their viewing choices, the more similar content is being suggested and provided, and the more likely one will be continuously exposed to such content, therewith maintaining and enhancing depression".

'This is highly encouraging from a prevention perspective, ' Dr Conrod said.

Boers and colleagues found that for television, increased use was associated with a decline in the severity of depression symptoms in a between-person analysis (-0.22, 95% CI -0.40 to -0.05), but in a within-person analysis, increasing television use by one hour within a given year was associated with a 0.18-unit increase (95% CI 0.09-0.27) in depressive symptoms. "Early detection of vulnerability to depression gives doctors and parents plenty of time to intervene by adjusting the amount of time young people use social media and television".

"Regulating teens" social media and television use might be one way to help young people manage depressed mood or vulnerability to depressive symptoms'.

Social Media Usage Linked to Teen Depression