Published: Mon, January 07, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Increased Social Media Use May Develop Depressive Symptoms In Teenage Girls

Increased Social Media Use May Develop Depressive Symptoms In Teenage Girls

Study leader Professor Yvonne Kelly said: "Families may want to reflect on when and where it's OK to be on social media and agree time limits".

Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) commented: "This important new research confirms that we need to increase awareness and understanding amongst parents, schools and policy makers about the role of social media in our young people's mental health, particularly taking into account the increased risks for girls".

The study is based on interviews with nearly 11,000 14-year-olds taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, a major research project into children's lives. When it comes to body image and self-esteem, more girls were affected but the researchers noted that the gap was not as significant.

They say teenage girls are twice as likely to show depressive symptoms as boys. Furthermore, girls are using social media at higher rates, with two in five of them spending three or more hours a day on social media as opposed to one in five boys. The paper also revealed that 40 percent of girls said that they often had disrupted sleep.

The results prompted renewed concern about the rapidly accumulating evidence that many more girls and young women exhibit a range of mental health problems than boys and young men, and about the damage these can cause, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

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"The link between social media use and depressive symptoms was stronger for girls compared with boys". Their depressive moods could directly be correlated with the time they spent on social media platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook. Total abstinence from social media was seen in only 4 percent girls and 10 percent boys.

Dr. Gary Maslow, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Duke Health and assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said the study finding of four factors related to social media use and depressive symptoms was interesting.

For example, 60 percent of girls who are depressed are unhappy with their appearance and 2¹/₂ times more likely than boys to be dissatisfied with their weight.

The findings also showed that 12% of light social media users and 38% of heavy social media users (five or more hours a day) showed signs of having more severe (clinically relevant) depression. Among teenagers who had perpetrated online bullying, 32.8 per cent of girls and 7.9 per cent of boys were depressed. The examination, supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), was distributed online in the diary EClinicalMedicine on Friday.

"The sad truth is that people mostly share the positive things about life on social media, without showing the negatives".

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