Social media may be linked to depression

There may be an association between social media and depression in adults, research suggests. 

A report published by the John Hopkins School of Medicine highlighted that those using the internet to either communicate, play games or participate in social media for more than four hours a day showed an increased risk of depression symptoms one year later.

Concurrently, depressive symptoms increased internet use, as well as a decrease in non-online activities.

However, the results of this, and other studies that measure social media’s link to mental health, have been called into question as they often rely on self-reported use of social media.

person using both laptop and smartphone

A review of 47 studies showed that self-reported digital media consumption rarely matched logged time on digital media, calling into question the validity of self-reported results. As well as this, reports such as the one by Johns Hopkins, only look at younger adults and adolescents.

There is also a debate around which comes first with social media and links to mental health – whether social media causes an increase in depression or anxiety symptoms, or whether the opposite is true.

Researchers state that when isolated, such as in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, adults may turn to social media as a coping mechanism, as opposed to the other way around.

The ‘idiosyncratic’ use of social media prompts researchers to state there is only questionable causation with these studies – rather than a general, confirm link – with researchers concluding that there needs to be a better understanding and more research of the link between mental health and social media to find out which way causation flows


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