Published: Wed, July 17, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Social Media Usage Linked to Teen Depression

Social Media Usage Linked to Teen Depression

The study involved around 4,000 teenagers in Canada who reported on the number of hours they spending playing video games, participating on social media, watching television, and using computers.

Increased social media use and television viewing are linked to worsening teenage depression, researchers say.

Boers said people are looking for and selecting information in harmony with their current state of mind. Video game use slightly decreased while time spent on computers didn't meaningfully change across the study.

Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the new study looked at shifts in their screen time, rather than screen time itself, as potential indicators for depression.

Screen time spent in front of social media and television can take more of a toll on adolescents' mental health than video gaming, according to a new study spearheaded by a Universite de Montreal researcher.

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

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'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'. The link between female depression and screen time seemed to be stronger than it was within males, as was the association between screen time and depression for adolescents with a lower versus higher socioeconomic status, Boers and his team reported.

Conrod said that "many people attribute increasing rates of depression among young people in North America to the recent introduction of mobile digital devices to our society".

"The results amazed us".

Conrod's team followed about 4,000 Canadian teenagers, aged 12 to 16 years, for four years.

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. "To our knowledge, the present study is the first to present a developmental analysis of variations in depression and various types of screen time". The adolescents were originally selected for another study which was testing an intervention to prevent substance abuse, this means the individuals were chosen if they were at high-risk of substance use based on an assessment of their personality characteristics. Between 2012 and 2018, the students were asked to complete surveys during class to assess their screen time behaviors and symptoms of depression.

"Early identification of vulnerability to depression gives clinicians and parents a large window of time in which to intervene", Conrod said. "Regulating teens' social media and television use might be one way to help young people manage depressed mood or vulnerability to depressive symptoms".

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