Can Social Media Really Cause Depression?

Posted on February 27, 2019

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There has been much buzz about the potential negative effects of social media, some studies talk about the potential for addiction to it, others focus more on the possible consequences such as poor sleep, poor self-esteem and, poor mental health. But how much of this is actually true? New research has now shown that social media does not necessarily bring about depression, dispelling the readily held belief of the present day.

Taylor Heffer of Brock University was the individual that lead this study as she believed in order the draw conclusions that social media usage does indeed predict depressive symptoms it has to be conducted as a longitudinal approach, following the same group of individuals over time instead of measurements from a single time point that previous studies have adopted. Heffer and her team used two longitudinal samples with 594 adolescents from sixth to eighth grade, and 1132 undergraduates respectively to empirically test this assumption of social media and predictive depressive symptoms. Both groups were surveyed with questions relating to the time spent on social media on weekdays and weekends, and questions regarding their time spent on other activities like watching TV, exercising and homework. Symptoms of depression were also assessed using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for the undergraduates, and a similar but more age-appropriate one for the younger group.

The younger group were surveyed once per year over 2 years, and the undergraduates were surveyed annually over the course of 6 years start from their first year in university. The data was separate into age and sex and analyzed. Findings show that use of social media did not result in depressive symptoms later in life and this finding held true for both the younger and older group. What was even more interesting were the gender differences whereby in adolescent females, higher depressive symptoms were predictive of later increased use of social media. Heffer believe this is related to how females at this age, turn to social media for comfort when they are feeling down.

To conclude, the findings of this study suggests that overuse of social media, does not lead to depression and has the potential to dissuade public fears over the negative effects of technology in our technologically savvy society. The important thing to note is the possibility of different factors that could play a part in social media’s impact on one’s mental health. One would be personality, some individuals might have a more negative use of social media as a platform for comparison, while others might use it as a mere tool to stay in touch with friends and family. Ultimately, we should be more cautious about media headlines and not be too quick to assume technology’s negative impact on oneself.


Source material from Medical News Today

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