The Mixed Relationship Between Social Media and Depression

Hands typing message on smartphoneResearch on the link between social media and depression is mixed, with some studies finding a clear correlation and others finding no link at all. A new study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking examined previous research on the link between social media and mental health issues. Researchers found social media may reduce depression symptoms in some people, but the mental health effects of social media depend on how a social medium is used.

Does Social Media Cause Depression?

Researchers analyzed data from previous studies spanning 14 countries. The studies included a total of 35,000 participants ages 15-88. The study found a significant correlation between social media use and depression, but the correlation was a complex one with no clear causal relationship. Instead, the risk varied with age, personality, and how participants used social media.

People who negatively compared themselves to other social media users were highly vulnerable to depression. Friendships with former partners and envy were correlated with an increased risk of depression. Frequent Facebook posts also increased the risks, possibly because these posts enabled users to ruminate on negative emotions.

People with anxious personalities were at a heightened risk of experiencing depression associated with social media use, suggesting social media use is just one of many depression risk factors. The study’s authors say how users approach social media is a more important predictor of depression risk than is frequency or duration of social media use.

Can Social Media Use Improve Mental Health?

The researchers suggest social media may also improve mental health. Some users may rely on social media to manage symptoms of depression or to reduce isolation. For example, online support groups can help people with depression who cannot access therapy, or those who need support in between therapy sessions.

Some social media users may use their accounts to maintain relationships and express themselves, potentially improving their mental health. However, a 2015 study suggested teens who felt pressure to maintain a constant online presence were at a higher risk for mental health issues.

Reference:

Baker, D. A., & Algorta, G. P. (2016). The relationship between online social networking and depression: A systematic review of quantitative studies. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19(11), 638-648. doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0206

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  • 3 comments
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  • Rhett

    Rhett

    December 10th, 2016 at 4:06 AM

    Aren’t those who get depressed when looking at social media people who are probably prone to depression anyway?

  • Jessi

    Jessi

    December 12th, 2016 at 9:51 AM

    if it is going to trigger you then by all means stay away from it

  • lia

    lia

    September 28th, 2017 at 7:50 PM

    it wouldve been easier to do so if there was a trigger warning

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