Social media linked to teen depression

Teens texting

Teens texting

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. They also reported how many hours per day they spent playing video games, on social media sites, watching television, or doing other activities on the computer.

The study, published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, was done using 3,826 adolescents and assessed screen time and depression during a four year period, using an annual survey in a sample of adolescents who entered the seventh grade in 31 schools in the Greater Montreal area.

Moreover, the teenagers completed self-reported questionnaires on various depressive symptoms between ages 12 and 16.

The teenage years are a time of considerable brain changes and inevitable emotional turmoil.

Since its advent in the early 2000s, social media has joined other forms of screen time as a potentially harmful preoccupation for teenagers.

For many years now, social media has been considered the root of all evil-at least when it comes to the mental health of its users.

But research has struggled to prove this causation.

But the data did indicate that interacting with media outlets that were more conducive to promoting upward social comparisons was associated with a drop in self-esteem.

The study was carried out over four years by researchers at the Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal.

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Dr Michael Bloomfield, head of translational psychiatry research group and consultant psychiatrist, University College London (UCL), said: "This study found that television and social media use were associated with increased risk of depression".

"A significant between-person association indicated that a 1-hour increase in social media use was associated with a 0.64- unit (on a scale from 0 to 28) increase in the severity of depression symptoms over 4 years", the researchers wrote. However, an increase in video gaming wasn't found to be a predictor for depression. The study, which was conducted from 2012 until 2018, found that increased screen time, especially on social media, led to an increase in depressive symptoms.

First, spending time staring at screens to consume social media or TV encouraged teenagers to compare themselves unfavorably to others.

Boers said people are looking for and selecting information in harmony with their current state of mind.

"Our research reveals that increased time spent using some forms of digital media in a given year predicts depressive symptoms within that same year", said study senior author Dr. Patricia Conrod.

'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 study was done by a Montreal research team from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal, and Sainte-Justine University Health Research Centre in Montreal.

But, she noted that their findings also point to a preventive opportunity.

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