Social media can lead to depression in teens

More time on social media linked to increase in teenage depression, study finds

The study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between depression and heavy social media or television use.

For years, experts have pointed a finger at phones as a possible factor in depression and other mental health problems.

A recent study by researchers at Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal shows that screen time is linked to an increase in depressive symptoms in teenagers - with social media being a chief contributor.

Conrod said her research showed that social media could have a particularly negative impact, as young people are presented with "very idealized images of what the lives of young people are like and presented through social media with images from their own peers". "There are so many ways in which social media is important and has positive features, but there's also ways in which social media can replace social support and connection from people you are living with in person", he said.

Activities such as video games and computer use for over-the-internet browsing were also included in the study, but no link was established to an increase in cases of depression during adolescence.

"Social media and television are forms of media that frequently expose adolescents to images of others operating in more prosperous situations, such as other adolescents with flawless bodies and a more exciting or rich lifestyle", lead author Elroy Boers, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Montreal's Department of Psychiatry, said in a statement.

The teens also completed questionnaires on various depressive symptoms over the four years of the study.

Elroy Boers, a postdoctoral researcher in Conrod's lab who worked on the study, said he was surprised by one of the findings.

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Social media and television are forms of media that frequently expose adolescents to images of others operating in more prosperous situations, such as other adolescents with flawless bodies and a more exciting or rich lifestyle.

The researchers found that high levels of social media use over four years was associated with increased depression - and each one-hour increase in the average time students said they spent on social media was associated with an increase in the severity of depression symptoms within that same year.

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.

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on teen depression.

"Furthermore, based on reinforcing spirals theory, people seek out and select information congruent with their current state-of-mind".

The University of Montreal scientists concluded that this happened for two of their three proposed reasons. Moreover, a similar within-person association was found for television use (0.18; 95% CI, 0.09-0.27).

Social media might play a role in why teenagers are depressed.

'Early identification of vulnerability to depression gives clinicians and parents a large window of time in which to intervene, ' Dr Conrod said.

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