University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine investigators have determined that there is a link between social media use and depression among young adults. The research shows that the more time a young adult spends on social media the higher the likelihood is that they will become depressed. The research study findings could improve treatment options for depression but the researchers caution that the study does not prove causation, only a link. The National Institutes of Health funded the research study on social media use and depression, and the study data and findings can be found in the medical journal Depression and Anxiety. Studies in the past have provided mixed results for medical researchers and further studies are needed to prove causation and answer other questions not addressed by this study.
Lui yi Lin, B.A., was the lead author of the study on social media use and depression, and she emphasized that “It may be that people who already are depressed are turning to social media to fill a void.” According to University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences assistant vice chancellor for health and society and professor of medicine Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., who was also a senior author on the study, “Because social media has become such an integrated component of human interaction, it is important for clinicians interacting with young adults to recognize the balance to be struck in encouraging potential positive use, while redirecting from problematic use. Our hope is that continued research will allow such efforts to be refined so that they better reach those in need.” Dr. Primack continued by saying “All social media exposures are not the same. Future studies should examine whether there may be different risks for depression depending on whether the social media interactions people have tend to be more active vs. passive or whether they tend to be more confrontational vs. supportive. This would help us develop more fine-grained recommendations around social media use.”