Does Social Media Use Fuel Depression?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says this seems to be the case. The study recruited over 1,300 people between 18 and 30. They were screened at the start for symptoms of depression. Demographic, biographical, and behavioral data were also collected.

According to a review of the study published in Medium (, after six months the researchers found “…that among those who were not depressed at the start of the study, heavy social media use was robustly associated with the emergence of depression. The more time a nondepressed person spent on social media at the start of the study, the greater the odds that person would go on to develop depression” (para. 5).

Study subjects who were on social media for five hours or more per day were nearly three times as likely to develop depressive symptoms as those who used social media two hours or less per day.

“Among the roughly 300 people who fell into the lightest tier of social media use, about 6% developed depression during the study. Among the roughly 150 people who fell into the heaviest-use tier, that figures jumped to 17%…” per the Medium review (para. 7).

The study also looked at those who were already exhibiting depressive symptoms at the start of the study and found that they were averaging about three hours a day on social media. Their use of social media did not increase during the six-month study period.

The research article itself is in press at the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The title is “Temporal Associations Between Social Media Use and Depression.” Authors are Primack, B.A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J.E., Escobar-Viera, C.G., and Fine, M.J. The Science Direct database has the full text.

About mediainmind

Education: BFA in Painting & Sculpture from California College of the Arts (Oakland); Executive MBA in Executive Management from the Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at the Claremont Graduate University (Claremont); MA and PhD in Media Psychology from the Fielding Graduate University (Santa Barbara). Experience: Over 40 years experience in marketing, advertising, and public relations on the client and agency sides of the business; for-profit and nonprofit, as well as government. Special Expertise: The interface between human behavior and the media. It's all about "media in mind." View all posts by mediainmind

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