Social Media Use Tied to Depression, but Not Sole Cause in Young Adults

Social media use does not predict an increase in depressive symptoms over time
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

FRIDAY, June 7, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Social media use and depression are associated, but social media use is not prospectively related to the course of depressive symptoms, according to a study published online May 15 in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.

Carol Vidal, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues examined how individual differences in social media use and depression relate to other health-related behaviors such as physical activity, green space exposure, cannabis use, and eveningness. Analysis included survey responses from 425 Canadian adults (82.5 percent female; aged 18 to 25 years).

The researchers found sex differences in the association of social media use with depression. When adjusting for other health-related behaviors, social media use was positively associated with depression, but it did not predict an increase in depressive symptoms over time. Higher exposure to green spaces was associated with lower levels of depression at some time points, but not longitudinally.

"It is important for providers to educate patients and for parents to instill healthy habits in their kids -- having a balance of moderate social media use and other outdoor activities and exercise is what people should strive for in today’s digital age," Vidal said in a statement.

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