Anxiety and depression have increased in recent years. The use of social media also increased. Hence, there is a widespread notion that social media use contributes to anxiety and depression. However, new research refutes this assumption, at least in children and adolescents.
A recent study involving experts from the University of Science and Technology in Norway examined whether changes in social media use are associated with the extent of diagnostically defined symptoms of depression and anxiety between the ages of 10 and 16. The results were published in the English-language journal Computers in Human Behavior.
800 children took part in the study
In a four-wave cohort study, the researchers medically monitored a total of 800 children over a period of six years to identify a possible connection between the use of social media and the development of symptoms of mental illness.
“We collected data every two years from the year the children were 10 until they turned 16. In this way, we were able to follow the children during the transition from childhood to adolescence,” study author Professor Silje Steinsbekk reports in a press release.
The symptoms of anxiety and depression were determined through diagnostic surveys with the participating children and their parents.
What was the impact of social media use?
According to the researchers, it made no difference whether children published posts and pictures on their own social media pages or whether they liked and commented on the posts published by other people. Also, it didn’t matter if the children were girls or boys, the results were the same.
It was also shown that the use of social media among the children did not contribute to more symptoms of anxiety and depression. according to the research team. In addition, children who developed more symptoms of anxiety and depression over time did not see any changes in their social media habits.
Conflicting results from older studies
Various studies have been conducted in recent years that have analyzed the connection between the use of social media and the mental health of children and adolescents.
Some research has found a negative impact of social media on the psyche, while other research has concluded that social media use can actually promote mental health, Professor Steinsbekk said. However, the correlations found were mostly weak.
“By observing the same subjects over several years, recording the symptoms of mental illness in extensive interviews and examining the different types of social media use, we were able to take a more detailed look in our study and draw a more differentiated picture of the connections,” explains the medic.
The researchers add that girls and boys who like and post on Instagram or Snapchat are not more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have negative experiences on social media, become addicted to it, or feel left out. It is therefore important to identify particularly vulnerable people in order to help them. (as)