Published: Thu, November 15, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Penn researchers find social media usage increases feelings of depression, loneliness

Penn researchers find social media usage increases feelings of depression, loneliness

The results suggested that restricting social media use had a "significant" and beneficial impact by reducing depressive symptoms, especially among those who had been moderately or highly depressed. "I feel overall that social media is less important and I value it less than I did prior to the study".

"We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid", said Melissa Hunt, lead author of the study and associate director of clinical training in the Psychology Department of the University of Pennsylvania.

The study shows that limiting the use of social media to approximately 30 minutes per day "may lead to a significant improvement in well-being" and reductions in loneliness and depression.

A new study by USA researchers has proven for the first time the causal connection between social media use and decreased mental health.

What differentiates this study from others is that previous studies have shown a co-relation between social media usage and mental health.

Participants were required to have a Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts and own an iPhone. "What we found over the course of three weeks was that rates of depression and loneliness went down significantly for people who limited their (social media) use".

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Participants were randomly assigned to a control group, which had users maintain their typical social-media behavior, or an experimental group that limited time on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to 10 minutes per platform per day.

"Facebook did not participate in this study, but our teams are working to better understand the research about technology and well-being".

After completion of the experiment, the psychologists prepared a special questionnaire for students with seven indicators: social support, fear to fall out of the environment, loneliness, anxiety, depression, self-esteem and self-acceptance. Hunt also noted that choosing to limit social media usage time rather than having the subjects to stop using it altogether was more realistic.

"These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study", according to Hunt.

Because this particular work only looked at Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, it's not clear whether it applies broadly to other social-media platforms. One is "downward social comparison", where you see all the fun things your friends are doing in their lives and compare them to what you're doing, and you feel worse about yourself because what you're doing isn't as exciting.

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