According to the latest research published on November 23 by the medical journal JAMA Network Open, social media usage is linked to anxiety and depression in middle-aged adults.
“We were asking people who weren’t depressed about their social media use,” said Dr. Roy Perlis, one of the study’s authors, according to NBC News. “Then we came back later to see if the people who were using certain kinds of social media were more likely to be depressed.”
The research compared the results of adults who did not use social media to those who did.
“People who were using Facebook, people who were using TikTok, and people who were using Snapchat were substantially more likely to come back and tell us they felt depressed the next time they filled out the survey,” said Perlis, who’s is also a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Despite the theory, the research doesn’t prove that social media causes depression. It may be likely that people already who have depressive thoughts or feel sad are more likely to be on those social media networks.
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However, it does pile onto evidence of a growing mental health crisis in the country. According to an October study, about one-third of American adults have reported feelings of depression, which is an increase from 8.5 percent before the pandemic.
Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer for the American Psychological Association, said, “Our brains were not built for this kind of social interaction. And social media is kind of hijacking the need for social interaction with something very artificial and insufficient. Social media is the empty calories of social interaction.”
Perlis also mentioned that he and his team found a connection between social media use and increased symptoms of depression even after considering factors such as isolation during the pandemic.
The research also pointed to age differences in how specific platforms impacted mental health. The study revealed that depressive symptoms are more commonly reported in Facebook users under age 35 than in older adults.
Whereas the opposite was true for Snapchat and TikTok users, more depressive symptoms were reported in people over age 35.