Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Social media linked to higher risk of depression in teen girls

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Samantha Long | 06 January, 2019, 04:13

Girls were also more likely to have experience of online harassment or cyber bullying and get less quality sleep because of extra time spent online.

"The link between social media use and depressive symptoms was stronger for girls compared with boys".

For girls, greater daily hours of social media use corresponded to a stepwise increase in depressive symptoms.

Girls were also more affected when it came to social media use and concerns about body image, self-esteem and appearance, the researchers found, but here the gender gap was smaller.

Additionally, they completed a Moods and Feelings Questionnaire - a widely validated internationally used screening (not diagnostic) tool for depressive symptoms.

Furthermore, girls are using social media at higher rates, with two in five of them spending three or more hours a day on social media as opposed to one in five boys.

Simon Wessely, an ex-president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told the British newspaper The Guardian that the researchers "still can not definitely say that social media usage causes poor mental health, although the evidence is starting to point in that direction".

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For example, while 7.5 per cent of 14-year-old girls and 4.3 per cent of 14-year-old boys have been the victim of online harassment, 35.6 per cent of girls who are depressed have experienced that - double the 17.4 per cent of boys who have done so.

Kelly and her colleagues found that 14-year-old girls are heavier social media users than 14-year-old boys.

About 10 percent of boys surveyed said that they do not use social media at all.

Government ministers and Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, have called on social media companies to do much more to limit the amount of time young people spend using their platforms. "Curfews for use and the overnight removal of mobile devices from bedrooms might also be something to consider".

"This important new research confirms that we need to increase awareness and understanding amongst parents, schools and policy makers about the role of social media in our young people's mental health, particularly taking into account the increased risks for girls", she said. Their findings are published on Friday in EClinicalMedicine, a journal published by The Lancet.

Social media is a fact of life for today's teenagers, though little is known about the impact of long-term exposure to its less than desirable aspects: cyberbullying, impossible beauty standards and violent content.

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