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Heavy Social Media Use Linked to Depression

FILE - A new study links heavy social media use with depression.
FILE - A new study links heavy social media use with depression.

Heavy usage of social media can lead to depression, according to a new study.

Writing in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health (CRMTH), say “use of multiple platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults.”

Specifically, researchers found that people who report using between seven and 11 social media platforms are three times more likely to develop depression and anxiety than those who use between zero and two platforms.

These findings were the same even when adjusted for the total time users spent on social media.

“This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms,” said lead author and physician Brian A. Primack. “While we can’t tell from this study whether depressed and anxious people seek out multiple platforms or whether something about using multiple platforms can lead to depression and anxiety, in either case the results are potentially valuable.”

For the study, researchers sampled 1,787 American adults between 19 and 32 to determine social media use and depression. The surveys asked about 11 social media sites, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn and others.

While those who used seven to 11 of these platforms reported three times more depression, Primack says more study needs to be done.

Researchers are not sure why heavy use of social media drives depression and anxiety, but they do have some theories.

For one, multitasking ”is known to be related to poor cognitive and mental health outcomes,” researchers said.

Also the “distinct set of unwritten rules, cultural assumptions and idiosyncrasies of each platform are increasingly difficult to navigate when the number of platforms used rises, which could lead to negative mood and emotions,” researchers said.

Lastly, being on more platforms leads to a greater chance to commit a “social media faux pas,” which can cause repeated embarrassment.