Medicine

Social networking, not video games associated with depression in adolescents

Social networking, not video games associated with depression in adolescents

"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 research team leader Patricia Conrod.

"I would nearly compare it to smoking in the 1970's, where the very negative effects are still relatively unknown", said Boers, who added that teenagers, on average, consume six to seven hours of screen time each day. "Taking into account the upward social comparison, it might be that repeated exposure to idealized images on social media and television decreases self-esteem", wrote the researchers. "We know that numerous personality traits associated with substance abuse could also be associated with depression and therefore these adolescents are likely to have a higher risk of mental health problems than the general population of adolescents".

Boers said people are looking for and selecting information in harmony with their current state of mind.

Scientists said that the idea to conduct such a study arose from them since teenagers spend a lot of time behind the screen, but this theme is not so widely studied. Video gaming and computer use beyond average, social media use and other internet browsing, were also included in the study, but were not identified as predictors of depression in adolescence. "Therefore, having depression as a young person can have potentially serious implications for someone's psychological and academic development which can have knock-on effects for mental health into adulthood", Bloomfield said in a written statement distributed by the Science Media Centre in the UK.

The study also suggests that most gamers are not socially isolated, with over 70% of them playing with other people either online or in person.

The findings were published July 15 in JAMA Pediatrics.

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The chief child and adolescent psychiatrist at Montreal's Children's Hospital said he has noticed over the last few years an increase in emergency room visits for teens who have exhibited suicidal thoughts.

"If there is, we need to know how this is happening and how to prevent depression in young people", said Dr. Michael Bloomfield, an excellence fellow and head of the Translational Psychiatry Research Group and consultant psychiatrist at University College London in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study.

For four years, the research team kept up with 4,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 16 throughout their high school years. She is also a University of Montreal professor of psychiatry.

However more study is needed to determine which platforms on social media might increase depression, Snapchat vs Instagram vs Facebook for example, and the same with TV, eg., sitcoms vs so-called reality shows often showing glamorous people in exotic locations or doing exciting things. "For this reason, the study does not allow us to conclude that social media use causes depression", she said.

The tendency to already watch high levels of television over four years without an increase was associated with less depression.