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Negative experiences on social media may increase depression risk : Study

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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.

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“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.”

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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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Getting out of the bed early can keep the blues away : Study

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Middle-to-older aged women who are naturally early to bed and early to rise are significantly less likely to develop depression, according to researchers at University of Colorado Boulder and the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The study, that published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research included more than 32,000 female nurses, explored the link between chronotype, or sleep-wake preference, and mood disorders.

It showed that even after accounting for environmental factors like light exposure and work schedules, chronotype – which is in part determined by genetics – appears to mildly influence depression risk.

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“Our results show a modest link between chronotype and depression risk. This could be related to the overlap in genetic pathways associated with chronotype and mood,” said lead author Celine Vetter.

The researchers found that late chronotypes, or night owls, are less likely to be married, more likely to live alone and be smokers, and more likely to have erratic sleep patterns.

After accounting for these factors, they found that early risers still had a 12 – 27 percent lower risk of being depressed than intermediate types. Late types had a 6 percent higher risk than intermediate types (this modest increase was not statistically significant.)

Genetics play a role in determining whether you are an early bird, intermediate type, or night owl, with research showing 12-42 percent heritability. And some studies have already shown that certain genes (including PER2 and RORA), which influence when we prefer to rise and sleep, also influence depression risk.

“Alternatively, when and how much light you get also influences chronotype, and light exposure also influences depression risk. Disentangling the contribution of light patterns and genetics on the link between chronotype and depression risk is an important next step,” Vetter said.

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Vetter stressed that while the study suggested that chronotype was an independent risk factor for depression, it did not mean night owls were doomed to be depressed.

“Being an early type seems to beneficial, and you can influence how early you are” she said. “Try to get enough sleep, exercise, spend time outdoors, dim the lights at night, and try to get as much light by day as possible.”

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