In a new study from Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers found links between the use of social media and depression.
On one hand, social media is a way for people to stay connected to a larger community and get information about things that interest them.
On the other, even before widespread misinformation on these platforms was recognized, there was a sense that young people might be negatively affected.
The team followed a year-long look at social media use and the onset of depression among nearly 5,400 adults.
To explore adult vulnerability, they focused on social media users 18 and up (average age: nearly 56). About two-thirds were women.
All completed an initial survey about their use of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat and/or YouTube.
None showed any signs of depression at the first survey. But after completing at least one similar follow-up, nearly 9% showed a “significant” increase in scores for depression risk.
The risk rose with the use of three hugely popular social media sites: Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok.
An increased risk was seen in users of TikTok or Snapchat who were 35 years old and up, but not among younger users.
The reverse dynamic played out with Facebook users: Depression risk went up among those under 35, but not among older users.
As to whether social media actually causes depression, the team said it’s unclear which is the chicken and which is the egg.
One possible explanation is that people who are at risk for depression, even if they’re not currently depressed, are more likely to use social media. Another is that social media actually contributes to that increased risk.
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The study is published in JAMA Network Open. One author of the study is Dr. Roy Perlis.
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