The use of social media is associated with an increased risk of depression, according to a new American scientific study. But this varies depending on the age of the user and which form of social media is used. Snapchat seems to have the biggest impact after Facebook.
The researchers, including Dr. Roy Perlis of Harvard University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital, who published the study in the American medical journal JAMA Network Open, analyzed data on nearly 5,400 adults with a mean age of 56 years, two-thirds of whom were women. At the beginning of the study, none of the participants were diagnosed with mild depression (May 2020), but a year later (May 2021), almost one in ten users (9%) had shown signs of depression.
The study also showed that the risk of depression increased when participants used three of the more popular apps consecutively: Snapchat, Facebook and TikTok.
But there were age differences: the risk was higher for TikTok and Snapchat users over 35, but not younger, while the opposite was true for Facebook, where the risk of depression was higher for users under 35 but not older.
"The relationship between social media and mental health has been the subject of intense debate," Perlis said, noting that it is not clear, nor from the new research, whether social media itself causes depression. He said, "One possible explanation is that people at high risk for depression, even if they are not yet depressed, are more likely to use social media. Another explanation is that social media does increase the risk."
This study, as with many other studies conducted in the past, does not specify whether online platforms bring to light the symptoms of depression or exacerbate pre-existing mental health problems.