Premature to say social media use leads to depression: Study
Toronto: Use of social media does not necessarily cause depressive symptoms later in adolescents and young adults, according to a recent research.
The study, however, showed that relatively higher depressive symptoms resulted due to more social media use later only among adolescent girls.
The latest study stands in contrast to recent claims that suggests teenagers’ use of social media could lead to depression.
“You have to follow the same people over time in order to draw the conclusion that social media use predicts greater depressive symptoms. By using two large longitudinal samples, we were able to empirically test that assumption,” said lead author Taylor Heffer from the Brock University in Canada.
For the study, the team surveyed 594 adolescents and 1,132 college undergraduates.
The results, published in Clinical Psychological Science, showed that social media use did not predict depressive symptoms later among adolescents or college undergraduates; rather, greater depressive symptoms predicted more social media use over time, but only among adolescent girls.
“This finding contrasts with the idea that people who use a lot of social media become more depressed over time. Instead, adolescent girls who are feeling down may turn to social media to try and make themselves feel better,” said Heffer.
Overall, the research suggests that the fear surrounding social media use and its impact on mental health may be premature.
“When parents read media headlines such as ‘Facebook Depression’, there is an inherent assumption that social media use leads to depression,” added Heffer.
In addition, different groups of people use social media for different reasons including making social comparisons or while feeling down. While another group of people may use it for more positive reasons, such as keeping in contact with friends, according to the study.
Examining the role that these differences play will help clarify the ways in which social media interacts with mental health, with implications for parents, policymakers, and healthcare professionals alike, the study noted.