Study: Social media may exacerbate (but not cause) depression

Study: Social media may exacerbate (but not cause) depression

Which came first, doomscrolling or depression?

In the 17 years that smartphones have been around, and in the past decade in which they became ubiquitous, young people’s rates of depression have been on the rise.

But which came first? A never-ending parade of peers showing off their perfect boyfriends, vacations and physiques, leading young people to feel “less than?” Or was depression to blame, leaving the young with little energy to do more than snoop on others’ online lives?

A team of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center researchers aimed to find out.

In their study, 376 young Canadians, mostly women, were asked to complete three online questionnaires between May 2021 and January 2022.

At each point, the participants reported symptoms via a nine-item quiz used to measure depression. They also answered questions about social media use, time spent outdoors, physical activity, their bedtime and cannabis use.

The researchers learned that most of the study’s participants had at least mild symptoms of depression.

They found that participants who used social media more tended to be more depressed. And vice versa.

But they couldn’t find a causal link between depression and social media.

They did find that those feeling depressed who spent a lot of time on social media spent less time outdoors, smoked more cannabis, stayed up later and avoided exercise.

So, the behaviors they were engaging in weren’t helping them feel better.

Here’s the takeaway: If you’re feeling depressed, be careful about the time you spend online. Get outdoors. Exercise. Go to bed at a reasonable time and don’t smoke cannabis. You can thank us later.

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