Young adults who use multiple social media platforms are more likely to experience symptoms of depression than peers who user fewer, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health.
For the study, which will be published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior in April, the researchers polled 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19-32 about their social media usage patterns, as well as self-reported indicators of depressive behavior.
The poll covered most of the major social platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and LinkedIn.
The survey found that respondents who use more than seven social media platforms were 3.1 times as likely to report symptoms of depression or anxiety than peers who use two or fewer social platforms.
Respondents who used the largest number of platforms were 3.3 times more likely than those who used the fewest to report depression and anxiety.
Interestingly, the number of social media platforms used was a better predictor of depression and anxiety than the total amount of time spent on social media.
As always, it should be noted that the study doesn’t prove that using multiple social media sites actually causes depression, as the reverse could also be true. For example, the correlation might be due to the fact that people who are already depressed or more prone to depression, are more likely to turn to multiple social sites as a relief or distraction.However, some other studies have shown that excessive social media use may indeed be the culprit causing psychological problems in young people.
Last week, for example, I wrote about a British study which found that the amount of time spent chatting on social networks was negatively associated with feelings of life satisfaction in a number of categories among teenagers. The study addressed the issue of causation by adding another factor, Internet connection speeds at the local level, to the analysis.