The more time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The findings could guide clinical and public health interventions to tackle depression, forecast to become the leading cause of disability in high-income countries by 2030.
The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is published online and scheduled for the April 1 issue of the journal Depression and Anxiety.
This was the first large, nationally representative study to examine associations between use of a broad range of social media outlets and depression.
Previous studies on the subject have yielded mixed results, been limited by small or localized samples, and focused primarily on one specific social media platform, rather than the broad range often used by young adults.
The researchers sampled 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32, using questionnaires to determine social media use and an established depression assessment tool.
The questionnaires asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
On average the participants used social media a total of 61 minutes per day and visited various social media accounts 30 times per week. More than a quarter of the participants were classified as having “high” indicators of depression.
There were significant and linear associations between social media use and depression, whether social media use was measured in terms of total time spent or frequency of visits.