The use of social media has been linked to an increase in depressive symptoms in teenagers, according to researchers at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital, according to the CBC.
In a new study led by University of Montreal psychiatry professor Patricia Conrod, adolescents were studied over a four-year period to investigate the relationship between depression and various forms of screen time.
Patricia Conrod, left, is a professor of psychiatry at Université de Montréal. She worked on the study with Elroy Boers, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal. (Kate McKenna/CBC)
“What we found over and over was that the effects of social media were much larger than any of the other effects for the other types of digital screen time,” said Conrod.
The researchers studied the behaviour of over 3,800 young people from 2012 until 2018. They recruited adolescents from 31 Montreal schools and followed their behaviour from Grade 7 until Grade 11.
The teenagers self-reported the number of hours per week that they consumed social media (such as Facebook and Instagram), video games and television.
Conrod and her team found an increase in depressive symptoms when the adolescents were consuming social media and television. –CBC
The study was published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal on Monday.
Unsurprising to some, the study found that all forms of screen time are bad, but that consuming social media was the most harmful. Conrod and her colleague, Elroy Boers, found that being active on platforms like Instagram – where teens can compare their dismal, boring lives to those of glitzy ‘influencers,’ cause the most depression.
“It exposes young people to images that promote upward social comparison and makes them feel bad about themselves,” said Conrod. “These sort of echo chambers — these reinforcing spirals — also continually expose them to things that promote or reinforce their depression, and that’s why it’s particularly toxic for depression.”
The researchers also observed whether the additional screen time was taking away from things generally known to reduce depression, such as exercise and fun interacting with other human beings, but found no link.
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