“Increasingly, teenagers are active on social media, particularly during the pandemic, as they have to rely on Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms to stay in touch with friends,” says first author Noah Kreski, MPH, who conducted the research as a practicum project as a Columbia Mailman School student and currently works as a data analyst in the Department of Epidemiology. “While some adults have voiced concerns over the potential mental health risks of this behavior, our research finds no compelling evidence to suggest that social media use meaningfully increases adolescents’ risk of depressive symptoms.”
The researchers analyzed study data collected by Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study of the habits, mindsets, and worths of Americans from adolescence through their adult years, representing 74,472 8th and 10th grade students in between 2009 to 2017. They assessed depressive signs to develop underlying depression threat, which they managed for in their analysis to understand how day-to-day social networks use may contribute to depression.
Daily social networks use amongst 8th and 10th grade students increased from 61 percent to 89 percent amongst women, and from 46 percent to 75 percent amongst young boys, from 2009 to 2017. Daily social networks use was not associated with depressive signs after accounting for the fact that the adolescents who often utilize social networks have even worse psychological health to begin with. However, among teen girls who had lowest threat for depressive signs, daily social networks usage was weakly related to symptoms, though due to low threat, the general occurrence of signs in that group was small. Among boys, daily social networks usage was not linked to increased depressive signs, and some proof suggested that daily social media usage might actually be protective against depression.
“Daily social media use does not capture the diverse ways in which adolescents use social media, which may be both positive and negative depending on the social context,” says senior author Katherine Keyes, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School. “Future research could explore the specific behaviors and experiences of young people using social media, as well as more frequent engagement with the various platforms.”
Background on Adolescent Depression and Social Network Use
After almost 50 years of stability, current proof has shown unprecedented increases in adolescent anxiety, depressive signs, and suicidal habits, particularly among girls. There has been widespread speculation that increasing use of smartphones and social networks has actually contributed to these trends.
Supporters of this hypothesis note that teenagers are significantly separated from face-to-face interaction, experience cyber-bullying, and face difficulties to self-esteem and self-respect through curated online pictures of peers. On the other hand, social networks is typically a positive outlet, and its usage might have positive effects on adolescent self-confidence. Social networking sites supply an area for content that is positive or humorous, especially valuable to teenagers who are depressed. Lots of young people look for support and guidance on social networks, particularly those with moderate to serious depressive symptoms.