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Health & Families

Less music, more books might boost mental health in teens

One way to enhance your teen's mental health? Encourage your child to turn down the music and crack open a juicy book, new research reveals.

Announced April 4, the US study compared six types of media - television and movies, music, video games, internet, magazines and newspapers, and books - and reported that the music-loving teens were 8.3 times more likely to be depressed that teens who spent the most time using the other types of media. The book lovers, on the other hand, were far less likely to be depressed than all the other groups, researchers said.

The study isn't clear as to whether or not music leads to depression, or if depressed teens are more likely to listen to music to escape, or both.

Following last week's warning issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics on what it deems a link between social media and depression in teens, this latest study is one of many of its kind investigating media's influences on youngsters. However, researchers note that what makes it unique is the link between reading and a lower likelihood of depression, especially since reading books is decreasing "while nearly all other forms of media use are increasing," said Dr. Brian Primack, researcher and professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Parents are of course advised to check in with their teens, and keep a close eye on their media usage. Also experts suggest encouraging more time for reading, to give children a mental and academic boost.

Find a list of top books enjoyed by teenagers now and in the past, according to a survey released for the UK's 2011 World Book Day campaign:

The study was published in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine : http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/165/4/360