Published: Mon, January 07, 2019
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Higher use of social media linked to depression in girls

Higher use of social media linked to depression in girls

Teen girls are likely to show depressive symptoms linked to social media use twice as much as boys. 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.

Only four per cent of girls reported not using social media compared to ten per cent of boys.

The results prompted renewed concern about the rapidly accumulating evidence that many more girls and young women exhibit a range of mental health problems than boys and young men, and about the damage these can cause, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Symptoms of depression were measured using the Moods and Feelings Questionnaire. Kelly added, "The link between social media use and depressive symptoms was stronger for girls compared with boys".

Time spent on social media was related to involvement with online harassment which had direct and indirect associations (via sleep, poor body image and self-esteem) with depressive symptom scores.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, said more action was needed from government to understand the impact of social media.

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The study was performed on 10,904 individuals aged 14 and above, to assess whether social media use leads to depressive symptoms in adolescents due to various factors such as online harassment, sleep deprivation, self-esteem and body image. They noted that girls spent more time on social media than boys and these girls had more pronounced signs of depression than boys.

Researchers led by Yvonne Kelly from the University College London (UCL) found that nearly 40 per cent of girls who spend more than five hours a day on social media show symptoms of depression, Xinhua news agency reported.

"My best bet would be the types of things that girls and boys do online", Kelly said. Their findings are published on Friday in EClinicalMedicine, a journal published by The Lancet. "Nonetheless, it is likely that excessive use of social media does lead to poorer confidence and mental health", said Stephen Scott, director of the national academy for parenting research at the institute of psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience at King's College London.

The study had some limitations, including that the findings show only a correlation between depressive symptoms and social media use, not a causal relationship.

"There are so many ways in which social media is important and has positive features, but there's also ways in which social media can replace social support and connection from people you are living with in person", he said.

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