Negative experiences on social media may increase the risk of depression among young adults, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh.
The finding, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, may be useful for designing interventions and clinical recommendations to reduce the risk of depression.
“We found that positive experiences on social media were not related or only very slightly linked to lower depressive symptoms. However, negative experiences were strongly and consistently associated with higher depressive symptoms,” said lead author Brian Primack, MD, PhD, dean of the Honors College and director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at Pitt.
College students who reported more negative interactions online were more likely to have symptoms of depression. However, positive social media experiences did not lower depression risk.
“Our findings may encourage people to pay closer attention to their online exchanges. Moving forward, these results could assist scientists in developing ways to intervene and counter the negative effects while strengthening the positive ones,” Primack added.
Unsettling experiences on social media may leave you feeling more than just anti-social — they might raise your risk for depression, research suggests.
Primack further said that the notion that negativity packs a stronger punch is not an exclusively online phenomenon.
“There is a theory called ‘negativity bias’, which suggests that negative things we encounter in the world are often more powerful than positive ones,” he said.
“For example, you might be taking four different classes in college, and you might have done very well in three of them. But it is that fourth class that you did very poorly in that takes up nearly all of your mental energy.” But, he continued, there’s an “argument for why the online world might particularly lend itself to negativity bias. This is because the online world tends to be completely oversaturated with false positivity. People get jaded to all of the ‘likes’ and all of the enthusiastic happy birthday wishes. But, when there is an angry or negative comment, it tends to stick out like a sore thumb and to feel particularly bad.”
The study participants were enrolled full-time at the University of West Virginia in 2016. About two-thirds were women, nearly three-quarters were white and about half were single. All were between the ages of 18 and 30, at an average age of 20. The study authors said about 83 percent of all social media users fall within this age range.
The respondents indicated how much of their social media experience tended to be positive and how much negative. The study participants decided for themselves what constituted a good or bad online experience, without any instruction from the research team.
A second questionnaire assessed the presence of depressive symptoms.
The researchers found that for every 10 percent increase in unpleasant social media experiences, the risk of developing symptoms of depression rose by 20 percent.
The study authors noted that depression is the leading cause of disability around the world.
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Excess use of social media may lead to depression and loneliness
Excessive use of social media like Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram could lead to depression and loneliness as this habit is associated with poor well-being,researchers have warned.
A new study, being published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that limiting screen time on these apps could boost one’s wellness.
The study has tried to look into the causal side of things, and see whether people may actually feel better when they cut down on social media.
“Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being,” the authors concluded.
“When you are not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you are actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life,” said Melissa Hunt, associate director of clinical training at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
For the study, researchers from the varsity, included 143 undergraduate participants. The team designed their experiment to include the three platforms most popular with the participants.
They monitored the students for a week to get a baseline reading of their social media use, and gave them questionnaires that assessed their well-being according to seven different factors: social support, fear of missing out (aka FOMO), loneliness, autonomy and self-acceptance (a measure of psychological well-being), anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
They collected objective usage data automatically tracked by iPhones for active apps, not those running in the background, and asked respondents to complete a survey to determine mood and well-being.
“Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study,” Hunt told Science Daily.
The researchers chose to limit social media, rather than have subjects stop using it altogether, because it was a more realistic option, she noted.
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