Depression in girls linked to greater time spent on social media

New research from University College London claims girls are twice as likely to show signs of depression because of greater social media use

New research from University College London claims girls are twice as likely to show signs of depression because of greater social media use

Dr Yvonne Kelly, a professor at University College London's Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care who co-led the study, urged parents and policymakers to note its results.

The study is based on interviews with nearly 11,000 14-year-olds taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, a major research project into children's lives.

Increased social media use may develop depressive symptoms in Teenage girls, essentially because of disturbed sleep and online harassment, and additionally lower self-esteem and poor body image, scientists said on Friday. 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. They found that only 5.4 percent of girls and 2.7 percent of boys slept for seven or less hours per night.

"We were quite surprised when we saw the figures and we saw those raw percentages: the fact that the magnitude of association was so much larger for girls than for boys", Kelly said. They also completed the Moods and Feelings Questionnaire which is used to screen for symptoms of depression. They found that on average, girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys.

Social media is also closely associated with poor sleeping habits, especially among 14-year-olds showing clinical signs of depression. Total abstinence from social media was seen in only 4 percent girls and 10 percent boys.

In the Philippines, academic and support groups launched in 2017 a study into the "new face of depression on social media", particularly online bashing, as a factor in the rising number of Filipinos suffering from depression and contemplating suicide.

The study also found that 12 per cent of light social media users and 38 per cent of heavy social media users (five-plus hours a day) showed signs of having more severe depression.

When examining differences between girls and boys who spend the same amount of time on social media, the researchers found the stronger association between social media use and depressive symptoms for girls. The findings can not prove that frequent social media use caused depressive symptoms, or vice versa.

"Inevitably there is the chicken and egg question, as to whether more dissatisfied children, who to begin with are less pleased with their body shape and have fewer friends then spend more time on social media".

Shannon McLaughlin, 18, from Blackburn, explained how social media has harmed her mental health. Social media could be blamed for the sleep disruption say the authors of the study.

"The sad truth is that people mostly share the positive things about life on social media, without showing the negatives".