Social media use may cause depression in young adults: Study

Social media use may cause depression in young adults: Study

Social media has undoubtedly transformed the lives of millions by broadening their social connections and making them learn new skills, but its adverse impact on young minds cannot be ignored. In today’s world, social networking is embedded in the social and emotional fabric of the life of the youth. But, somewhere deep within they are subconsciously comparing themselves to friends or feeling the sting of rejection which can lead to “social media depression.”

A recent research by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine also recognized an association between depression and internet use, saying the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. The study, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety in April 2016, was the first nationwide study to identify that the age of young adults is a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety-related with the use of a broad range of social media outlets.

More time on social media means higher probability of depression

To examine the link between social media use and wellbeing, lead author Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, and his colleagues analyzed the data from 1,787 American adults aged between 19 and 32 years. They used a questionnaire focusing on the 11 popular social media platforms — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn – and found that the participants used social media a total of 61 minutes a day and visited various social media accounts 30 times a week, on an average.

It was found that those who checked the social media most frequently during the week had 2.7 times the likelihood of developing depression compared with those who checked least frequently.

“Our hope is that continued research will allow such efforts to be refined so that they better reach those in need. Future studies should examine whether there may be different risks for depression depending on whether the social media interactions people have tend to be more active vs. passive or whether they tend to be more confrontational vs. supportive,” said Primack.

Negative effects of social media use

With every great invention come drawbacks, which means that the lack or difficulty in self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure makes young adults vulnerable to disorders related with social media use. Internet addiction and sleep deprivation are issues that continue to be under intense scrutiny, but experts are still unsure whether social media use causes depression or if people with depressive tendencies are more drawn to the digital media.

Spending hours on social media can have a negative impact on the quality of sleep, resulting in anxiety and depression. Other negative aspects of social media include:

  • It can be addictive: Individuals who spend more than an hour everyday on various social media platforms are likely to develop an addiction to the social media.
  • Makes people compare their lives with others: The idealized posts on social media may sometimes lead to a decline in confidence in the users due to unrealistic comparisons with others.
  • Gives rise to cyberbullying: With teens and children finding ways to bully each other with any type of site dedicated to social interactions, victimization of young people online has been receiving an increased level of concern.
  • Promotes alcohol and drug use: With a frequent exposure to social media, the amount of peer pressure  increases, which leads to higher chances of alcohol and drug abuse.

Way forward

The very act of being negatively influenced by the social media can damage the self-image of the victim in ways that can affect them for life. But parents need to be vigilant. It is imperative to take depression seriously as it can be damaging if left untreated. Do not wait for symptoms to grow to a level, wherein the patient loses hope to recover.

If you or your loved one is suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder, you may contact the California Mental Health Helpline for further information about various mental health facilities in California. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online for more information on mental health rehabilitation centers in California.