High social media use tied to risk for adolescent depression

  • JAMA Pediatr

  • International Clinical Digest
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Takeaway

  • High social media and computer use is linked to increased depression risk among adolescents, likely because they tend to make peer comparisons unfavourable to themselves and enter into reinforcing content spirals forced by site algorithms.
  • Video-gaming showed no association with depression.

Why this matters

  • Clinicians need good evidence for discussions with adolescents and parents about good screen-use practices and thresholds for risk.

Key results

  • Overall, depression symptoms increased yearly (scale, 0-28): year 1 mean (standard deviation [SD]) was 4.29 (5.10); year 4 mean (SD) was 5.45 (5.93) points.
  • For every social media hour increase, within-person analysis showed that depressive symptoms increased by 0.41 (95% CI, 0.32-0.51) units.
  • A similar pattern emerged for computer use for between-person analysis, with 0.69-unit increase (95% CI, 0.47-0.91) per added hour. 
  • Watching television for an hour more was linked to a −0.22-units/year decrease (95% CI, −0.40 to −0.05) for between-person analysis, but within-person analysis showed an increase of 0.18 units/year (95% CI, 0.09-0.27). 

Study design

  • Secondary analysis of drug and alcohol prevention programme trial, enrolling 3826 adolescents (mean [SD] age, 12.7 [0.5] years) in Montreal, September 2012-2018.
  • Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Fonds de la recherche en santé.

Limitations

  • Specific types of social media, etc., unknown.