New York– Young adults who increased their social media usage are significantly more likely to develop depression within six months, say researchers.
Compared to the participants of the study who used social media for less than 120 minutes per day, young adults who used more than 300 minutes per day are 2.8 times as likely to become depressed within six months.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows a link between social media usage and depression over time.
“We know from other large studies that depression and social media usage tend to go together, but it’s been hard to figure out which came first,” said study author Brian Primack from the University of Arkansas in the US.
“This new study sheds light on these questions because high initial social media use led to increased rates of depression. However, initial depression did not lead to any change in social media use,” Primack added.
For the findings, the research team sampled more than 1,000 US adults between 18 and 30 years of age.
They measured depression using the validated nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire and asked the participants about the amount of time they used social media on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and Snapchat.
Their analyses controlled for demographic factors like age, sex, race, education, income and employment, and they included survey weights so the results would reflect the greater US population.
The findings showed that excess time on social media may displace forming more important in-person relationships, achieving personal or professional goals, or even simply having moments of valuable reflection.
The authors suggest that social comparison may also underlie these findings.
The findings are of particular importance given that depression was recently declared to be the leading global cause of disability by the World Health Organization and accounts for more disability-adjusted life-years than all other mental disorders.
“These findings are also particularly important to consider in the age of Covid-19,” Primack said.