Study: Frequent Social Media Users More Likely to Be Depressed

On average, young people spend 61 minutes per day on social media
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2016 5:34 PM CDT
Study: Frequent Social Media Users More Likely to Be Depressed
People who use social media frequently are more likely to be depressed, according to a new study.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Repeatedly updating Facebook or scrolling through pictures of pugs on Instagram are examples of activities "significantly associated" with an increased risk of depression, suggests a new study published in Depression and Anxiety. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh surveyed nearly 1,800 people between the ages of 19 and 32 about their use of 11 social media networks, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Pinterest, CNET reports. They found the average time spent on social media was 61 minutes per day, with approximately 30 visits to social media sites per week. But people who checked social media most frequently were 2.7 times likelier to be depressed than those who checked least frequently. And those who spent the most time on social media were 1.7 times more likely to be depressed than those who spent the least.

A press release gives a few reasons why social media could be linked with depression: envy of other people's "highly idealized representations" of their lives, feeling like you're wasting your life on social media, and increased risk of cyber-bullying. But it's not clear social media is causing users' depression. Researcher Lui yi Lin says it's possible depressed people are more likely to turn to social media to "fill a void." "A common thing that people do when they start to become depressed is to isolate more," one expert tells Mic. "Social media provides an opportunity to ... not [be] a full participant. It is a risky thing to do when feeling depressed." And "given the proliferation of SM, identifying the mechanisms and direction of this association is critical for informing interventions that address SM use and depression," the authors conclude. (Facebook purposefully messed with users' moods—and it's really sorry about it.)

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