Social media use could be tied to depression, study suggests

A study of thousands of adults found certain uses of popular social media sites led to worsening symptoms of depression.

It’s possible that some uses of social media could contribute to increased symptoms of depression, a new study suggests.

The study, published Nov. 23 on Jama Network Open, examined 5,395 people who visited popular sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, Tiktok and YouTube. The participants experienced minimal symptoms of depression in initial screenings, but they were more likely to report worsening symptoms following social media use in a later survey, according to the study.

The authors wrote the study highlights “the need for further investigation of the relationship between social media use and mental health.”

Roughly two thirds of the participants (65%) in the study were women. The mean age of those in the study was 56.

The authors note that teens and young adults have shown they are susceptible to self-esteem issues due to social media, but they wanted to determine the impact on older adults. The participants self-reported symptoms of depression.

Some forms of social media use, specifically Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube, were tied to higher reports of symptoms of depression, the study found.

The authors note that among those reporting more depressive symptoms, there was typically no correlation with consumption of other types of news or media (Snapchat was one exception). In addition, there was no tie to the number of face-to-face interactions by the participants, suggesting those increased feelings of depression weren’t due to a lack of social interactions, the study noted.

According to the authors, the study reinforces other research finding a tie between social media use and feelings of depression among more mature adults.

“Our results suggest that the associations previously observed with depressive symptoms are not limited to young adults; indeed, while effect sizes for Facebook are greater among younger adults, effect sizes for TikTok and Snapchat are greater among those age 35 years or older,” the authors wrote.

The authors do note limitations to the study, including the nature of the social media use. The authors also acknowledge that social media use “may simply be a marker of underlying vulnerability to depression.”

Nonetheless, the authors found the use of social media could be tied to greater feelings of depression.

Social media is undeniably a part of the lives of most Americans. A Pew Research Center survey in February 2021 found 72% of Americans use some form of social media, up from 50% a decade ago.

While social media is often associated with young adults, 73% of Americans between the ages of 50-64 use at least one social media site, while 45% of those 65 and over are on social media, according to the Pew survey.

Researchers Roy H. Perlis, Jon Green, Matthew Simonson and others authored the study examining social media and symptoms of depression.