WASHINGTON: Does using Facebook lead to depression? Not really, says a new study, debunking the theory that hooked on to the social networking sites could cause the mental illness among adolescents.
The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health study suggested that it may be unnecessarily alarming to advise patients and parents on the risk of “Facebook Depression” based solely on the amount of Internet use.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report on the effects of social media on children and adolescents. The report suggested that exposure to Facebook could lead to depression.
In the new study, published online today in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers led by Lauren Jelenchick and Megan Moreno surveyed 190 students between the ages of 18 and 23, using a real-time assessment of Internet activity and a validated, clinical screening method for depression.
The students were surveyed with 43 text-message questionnaires at random intervals over a seven-day period between February and December of 2011. The students were asked if they were currently online, how many minutes they had been online and what they were doing on the Internet.
The study found that the participants were on Facebook for over half of the total time online. When Jelenchick and Moreno evaluated the data including the depression-screening results, they found no significant associations between social-media use and the probability of depression.
“Our study is the first to present scientific evidence on the suggested link between social-media use and risk of depression,” Jelenchick said.
“The findings have important implications for clinicians who may prematurely alarm parents about social-media use and depression risks.”
Moreno added that parents don’t have to be overly concerned if their child’s behavior and mood haven’t changed, they have friends and their school work is consistent.
“While the amount of time on Facebook is not associated with depression, we encourage parents to be active role models and teachers on safe and balanced media use for their children,” she said.
According to estimates, over 70 per cent of adolescents use social media sites, most commonly Facebook.