The more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to become depressed, a study has found.
Of the 19 to 32-year-olds who took part in the research, those who checked social media most frequently throughout the week were 2.7 times more likely to develop depression than those who checked least often.
The 1,787 US participants used social media for an average 61 minutes every day, visiting accounts 30 times per week. Of them a quarter were found to have high indicators of depression.
Dr Brian Primack, the director of Pitt’s Centre for Research on Media, Technology and Health, led the study, and told The Independent: “It is important to explain that, because this was a cross-sectional study, directionality is not clear from these results.
“One strong possibility is that people who are already having depressive symptoms start to use social media more, perhaps because they do not feel the energy or drive to engage in as many direct social relationships.”
Quotes on depression
Quotes on depression
1/14 Alistair Campbell
Alistair Campbell: "One day, we will look back and wonder how on earth we used to believe that depression was a lifestyle choice, only to be debated and taken seriously when an A List film star took his life, and the world filled with people saying how shocked and saddened they were. "
2/14 On living with depression
Stephen Fry: "Depression is as real as the weather…it’s all about a kind of mental umbrella. 'Hey-ho, it’s raining inside: it isn’t my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage.'"
3/14 On living with depression
Ernest Hemingway: "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." (He also said "happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know")
4/14 On living with depression
Jonathan Davis: "A lot of people don't realize that depression is an illness. I don't wish it on anyone, but if they would know how it feels, I swear they would think twice before they just shrug it."
5/14 On passing judgement on depression
Geoffrey Boycott: "Until you've had depression I don't think you're qualified to talk about it."
6/14 Jack Dee
Jack Dee: "I have had issues with depression all my life, and it's probably true to say there was a tendency towards it even when I was very young, during my schooldays. There was often - and this is quite common with comics - a sense of not feeling as if I belonged anywhere."
7/14 On living with depression
Jason Manford: "The world needs you even if you don't think it does. I promise, we need you here, now."
8/14 Author Jeanette Winterson
Art saved me; it got me through my depression and self-loathing, back to a place of innocence.
9/14 On life and depression
Agatha Christie: "I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know that just to be alive is a grand thing."
10/14 On living with depression
Albert Camus: "In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
11/14 On dealing with low mood
Dolly Parton "The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
12/14 If you're feeling depressed right now..
Annabel Giles: "If you’re depressed right now, then let's remember that we only have to do today, that's all. Nothing more. We can do just a day, can't we? And don’t forget, we haven't always been like this. The good days will come back. We've just go to do as much as we can, when we can."
13/14 Helen Keller on looking for the positive
Helen Keller: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
14/14 On it happening to all of us
Mariella Frostrup: "Only those with skin as thick as elephant hide can hope to sail through their teens unscathed by self-doubt and bouts of depression."
However, he said there are several reasons why increased social media could lead to more depressive thoughts. One example he cited was a phenomenon which is sometimes referred to as “Facebook depression”.
“People who engage in a lot of social media use may feel they are not living up to the idealised portraits of life that other people tend to present in their profiles.
“As with many things in the social sciences, it may also be that both of these directions are accurate.
“This would be concerning, because it would imply that there is a potential vicious circle: people who become depressed may turn to social media for support, but their excessive engagement with it might only serve to exacerbate their depression.”
The study, by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, looked at the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
There are currently over a billion people actively using Facebook daily, while Twitter attracts 320 million active users every month.
These findings are particularly disturbing as the World Health Organisation published a report in October 2015 which said depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide.
However, Dr Primack said he could imagine scenarios in which social media could itself become a tool to combat the problem.
“We hope that this research may provide one piece to the puzzle of how we can best use powerful tools such as social media to our advantage and not our detriment.
“We certainly do not recommend that people stop using social media. Social media is obviously an extremely important part of modern-day society and has many important functions.
“Hopefully the knowledge that there can be emotional risks associated with its use may help individuals to make better choices about the extent to which they use social media and the way in which they use it.”
“It is important to acknowledge that what we found were just overall tendencies for the entire population therefore, these findings do not suggest that every person who engages with more social media use is depressed in fact there may certainly be groups of people who find solace and lessening of their depression through social media resources and relationships,” he said.