Is depression linked with social media use in adults?

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New research has found a link between depressive symptoms and social media use among adults. Bebo / Getty Images
  • Researchers have investigated the relationship between social media use and depression in adults, including the elderly.
  • They found that some, but not all, social media use was associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms.
  • Along with expert commentators, the team asks for caution when interpreting the results due to study limitations and uncertainty about causation.

Social media use is associated with decreased well-being and increased anxiety and depression among adolescents and Youth.

One reconsidering Highlight a study that found that using the Internet to communicate and play games for more than 4 hours a day predicts depressive symptoms after one year. The research also found that depressive symptoms predict increased Internet use and decreased participation in unseen activities.

Another study involving 990 participants in the United States found a link between social media use and the development of depression. However, pre-existing depression did not predict social media use.

However, the accuracy of these studies may be questionable as much of them are based on self-reported social media use. a reconsidering Among 47 studies looking at the accuracy of self-reported digital media use, it raised concerns that self-reported measurements rarely correlate with recorded measurements.

Furthermore, studies often do not include adults in their samples, so the impact of social media on older age groups is relatively unknown.

Finally, whether there is a causal relationship between social media use and depression – which comes first – remains unknown.

Researchers recently conducted a survey looking at the link between social media use and the development of depressive symptoms.

The findings suggest that certain social media use preceded exacerbation of depression outcomes. The results appear inJAMA Network is open.

However, some experts doubt the extent to which these results can be explained.

The researchers analyzed the results of survey data taken between May 2020 and May 2021 from individuals aged 18 and over. The survey sample included quotas for gender, age, race, and ethnicity from each of the 50 states in the United States to ensure that they were representative of the country’s population.

Survey questions included a nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) to assess depressive symptoms. The questions examined whether participants “have little interest or pleasure in doing things” and whether they “feel down, depressed, or hopeless” on a four-point scale.

The researchers also inquired of the participants about:

  • Their use of social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok
  • Whether they have consumed any sources of news related to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours
  • The number of social support they have available to discuss problems
  • Number of face-to-face meetings they had with non-family members in the last 24 hours

To analyze the data, the team included participants who filled out surveys at least twice and had an initial PHQ-9 score of less than 5, indicating less than mild depression.

Overall, 5,395 people completed two questionnaires. Their median age was 55.8 years, while 65.7% were female, 4.7% were Hispanic, 10.6% were black, and 76.3% were white.

Through their analyses, the researchers noted that use of Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok in the first survey had associations with significantly greater risks of increased self-reported depressive symptoms.

They also noted that COVID-19-related news participants consumed in the past 24 hours along with the number of social support and daily face-to-face interactions only affected Snapchat-related scores.

While TikTok and Snapchat use were associated with depressive symptoms among those aged 35 and over, but not those younger than 35, Facebook use had associations with depressive symptoms among those under 35, but Not those over 35 years old.

The researchers say that due to the observational nature of their study, they cannot be sure why social media use is associated with depression. However, they identify possible mechanisms.

“One possible explanation for our findings is that people who are at risk of developing depression, even if they are not currently depressed, are more likely to use social media,” Roy H. study, he said Medical news today.

The other reason is that social media actually contributes to increasing these risks. With our study design, we cannot distinguish between the two. What we can rule out is the possibility that depressed people are more likely to report social media use, which has been a limitation of some previous studies.”

When asked to explain what might be behind this link, Sarah McCain, MSEd. NCC highlighted. However, this may have the opposite effect and thus lead to depressive symptoms.

She also noted the effect of social comparison: “Social media often only shows people ‘living their best lives’ or positive things that happen like buying a new home, getting a new job, graduating from college, etc. The failures in others’ successes, Which can make us have negative thoughts about ourselves.”

While rates of depression appear to have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, some are questioning whether social media use ever had an episodic role.

“The significant limitations make it difficult, if not impossible, to deduce anything of value from the results,” said Craig J.R. Sewall, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the study. MNT.

“The item they used to measure usage [social media] Platforms is a simple “yes/no” answer to this question: “Have you ever used any of the following social media sites or apps?” permission person [who] I used Instagram, for example, 5 years ago and someone [who] Instagram use 5 hours ago Both will answer “Yes”.

“This is a major problem and makes this finding practically meaningless: In the adjusted regression models, use of Snapchat, Facebook and TikTok in the first survey was significantly associated with an increased risk of increased self-reported depressive symptoms,” he continued.

“Because the question about [social media] The usage is phrased the way it was, even if they find an association between [social media] Use and depression, they will have no way to be sure if it [social media] The use is recent or a long time ago, whether they visit frequently [social media] Statute or whether it is a ‘one and do’ situation [or both]. As a result, it is very difficult to conclude that participants’ increase in depression between May 2020 and May 2021 had anything to do with whether they used a particular type of depression. [social media] platforms,” ​​he explained.

“I think the ‘link’ in this study is questionable, but in general, if there is a link [between social media] And depression, there can be a number of explanations. In the time of COVID-19, I think the most reasonable explanation is that many people have experienced increased depression due to the myriad negative effects of the pandemic.”

– Dr. Seoul

“At the same time, people have had to rely more on digital technology such as [social media] To connect with friends, colleagues and loved ones. So maybe people who have become more depressed because of the pandemic depend [social media] more as a coping mechanism.”

“Explaining the links between social media use and depression requires a lot of careful thinking and careful methodology,” said Dr. Fisher. “In my personal opinion, this should be done in a way that moves away from cross-sectional and self-report measures such as those used in this study and towards measures that take the individual into account (sometimes called identity-imaging methods), and those that measure media use in a more objective way (such as the use of device records). or the Data Donation Framework).

“I don’t know that we have enough evidence from this paper to conclude conclusively that there is a link between social media use and depression, let alone that the causal tendency here is social media use. [leads to] depression. It is also possible that people who were more depressed during the epidemic used social media more (for example, to connect with friends). The methods used here do not allow us to infer either direction.”

The researchers concluded that we need to better understand the relationship between social media use and mental health.

“Even if social media use only tells us about the underlying risks, rather than causing them, can we understand why?” Dr. Perlis said. Can we intervene to prevent depression and anxiety? We hope our work will inform mental health researchers and policy makers to think about how to study and address this relationship. What we cannot continue to do is simply ignore this association or try to eliminate it as a statistical tool.”

The researchers note that their study has several limitations. First, they say they could not properly control all of the factors that might have influenced their results. They stress that their research does not prove causation and that social media use may “simply be a sign of the vulnerability underlying depression”.

When asked how these findings should affect public health, Ms. McCain said: “For example, you should set limits on the amount of social media one consumes. This can easily be done by going to your settings on [smartphone], so once you hit your limit for the day, you can’t access the app again.”

Similarly, research may be needed to determine the appropriate amount of time we spend on social media as it makes us feel good but does not make us focus on other people’s lives and causes feelings of depression. It can also be helpful to suggest changes to the way we interact and interact with others on social media. Teens and teens with social media accounts may need to be closely monitored to ensure they are not victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying.”

However, Dr. Sewall believes that these findings should not affect public health recommendations, given the “flaky” evidence:

“If the hope is to help people improve their well-being during these very difficult times, I think it would be a waste of time and resources to focus on people [social media] use. [It would be] It is much better to focus on some of the myriad other issues that have been affected by the pandemic – such as financial security.”

Dr. Fisher agreed that these findings should not directly influence public health recommendations, “at least not in an extreme way.”

Dr Fisher added: “I hope that findings like these will generate some momentum towards pressure on social media companies to share their data with independent researchers, as this is probably the only way for us to actually come up with definitive evidence regarding the links between social media use and depression. “.

“I support the increased accountability of social media platforms, but the truth is that the use of social media is so Very specialFor some people, it’s positive, and for others, it’s negative, just like many other behaviors.”

“We would probably set our understanding back if we were too quick to diagnose everyday behaviors. I would be disappointed if other healthcare practitioners and public health officials used the findings of this study as a justification for any kind of causal link between social media use and depression, particularly in a specific way. general “.

– Dr. Fisher

“There is by no means a consensus in the academic community that ‘social media’ or even certain social platforms are harmful to mental health in general and [we] Much better data is needed to be more sure of these connections, and more to understand the direction in which the causal order flows.”

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