If a new research is to be believed then more time spends on social media by young adults leads to higher chances of depression. According to this research conducted by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, more time on social media leads to ‘Internet Addiction’ which is a proposed psychiatric condition considered closely related to depression. Ironically, it is forecasted that depression will be the foremost reason for causing disability in the high-income countries by the year 2030. Ergo, this new research can lead to clinical and public health intervention to treat depression effectively before things get out of hand.

About this recent research and the effect of social media on mental health, the lead author of the research Lui Yi Lin of the University of Pittsburgh, stated that

It may be that people who already are depressed are turning to social media to fill a void.

Furthermore, Lin says exposure to social media may further cause depression and this can fuel the need to spend more time on social media. In other words, social media can trap the users in an endless loop of depression. Lin also pointed out the dangers of so-called harmless activities on social media, for example, the highly idealized representations of life of peers may cause envy and make one believe that others are living a more successful and happier life; engaging in activities of little or no meaning may cause a sense of waste of time and negatively influence your mood. Also, exposure to negative interaction and cyber bullying are other reasons that can cause depression in users of social media.

This research is the first large and nationally representative study that examines and determines the relationship between usage of various types of social media tools and depression. Whatever earlier studies have been conducted has either done on small or localized subjects or was focused on a specific social media outlet.

Senior author Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., Director of University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, told that, “’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,”

As a matter of fact, as a preventive measure, some social media websites have already employed a couple of tactics. For example, if you type depression, suicidal, or anything related to these in the search bar of Tumblr then it provides helpful links to various resources. Similarly, Facebook also tested a feature that allows anyone to report anonymously distressing post of anyone in their friend list. Following such a report, the poster of the status will start receiving pop-up messages to encourage the user to talk to friends or take professional help.

According to Dr. Primack, “Our hope is that continued research will allow such efforts to be refined so that they better reach those in need,”

Further, he added, “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.”

Story Inputs: UPMC Life Changing Medicine