This week brought more evidence connecting social media and depression, although as always it should be noted that correlation does not necessarily prove causation, meaning it’s not clear that social media is actually causing depression. Nonetheless, the link still points to a potential relationship in which social media may enable, worsen, or extend depression.
The study, titled “Association Between Social Media Use and Depression Among U.S. Young Adults” and published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, surveyed 1,787 adults ages 19-32 about their social media usage and emotional wellbeing. Respondents answered questions about their use of major social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
According to the study, authors at the University of Pittsburgh, the survey found that respondents used social media on average for 61 minutes per day, and visited social sites an average of 30 times per week. In terms of emotional wellbeing, over a quarter of respondents were deemed to have a high number of indicators for depression.
Mores specifically, the study revealed that respondents who check social media most frequently were 2.7 times as likely to report indicators of depression than respondents who checked least frequently. Meanwhile respondents who reported spending more time on social media were 1.7 times more likely to be depressed than people who spent less time.
The authors were careful to note that the connection doesn’t necessarily imply causation, as people who are already depressed may simply use social media more than people without depression. By the same token, the habit of turning to social media could conceivably contribute to prolonging or deepening depression, by establishing cyclical, self-reinforcing behavior patterns.
As noted, this is just the latest in a series of studies showing a connection between social media and depression in young people. Previously a study carried out by the UK Office of National Statistics found that children ages 10-15 who spend more than three hours a day on social media were significantly more likely to experience mental health problems than those who spent less than three hours on social media (27% versus 11%).