A new study from Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital reveals that social media is linked to depression among teenagers.
The CBC reported that the study looked into the relationship between depression and young adolescents being exposed to different forms of screen time over a period of four years.
“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,” Patricia Conrod, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, told the CBC.
The study looked at the behaviour of 3,800 young adolescents between 2012 and 2018. The teens reported the number of hours per week that they were on social media (platforms including Facebook and Instagram) video games and television.
Conrad said the report found that there was an increase in depressive symptoms when these teenagers had more screen time with social media and television. This is particularly the case when teenagers were on Instagram, a picture sharing platform where it is likely the teenagers were comparing themselves to what could be the fake portrayal of a glamorous life of others.
“It exposes young people to images that promote upward social comparison and makes them feel bad about themselves,” Conrad told the CBC. “These sort of echo chambers — these reinforcing spirals — also continually expose them to things that promote or reinforce their depression, and that’s why it’s particularly toxic for depression.”
The CBC reported according to the study, “of all the forms of screen time, consuming social media can be the most harmful.”
The study also looked at whether screen time took away from teens doing other activities that would help decrease depressive symptoms. These could include spending time with friends in real life and exercising.
Depression found in teens can be “linked to substance abuse, lower self-esteem and poor interpersonal skills,” the CBC reported, adding that according to the study teens spent average six-to-seven hours in front of a digital screen per day.