Using over seven different social media platforms is linked to a tripling in depression risk, psychological research finds.
The study asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
Those who used between 7 and 11 of these, had 3.1 times the depression risk.
They also had 3.3 times the risk of having high levels of anxiety symptoms.
Professor Brian A. Primack, who led the study, said:
“This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms.
While we can’t tell from this study whether depressed and anxious people seek out multiple platforms or whether something about using multiple platforms can lead to depression and anxiety, in either case the results are potentially valuable.”
There are a number of ways in which using multiple platforms might lead to depression and anxiety, the authors argue:
- Multitasking is known to lead to poor mental health and weakened thinking skills.
- Using more platforms might lead to more opportunities for embarrassing mistakes.
Professor Primack said:
“It may be that people who suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety, or both, tend to subsequently use a broader range of social media outlets.
For example, they may be searching out multiple avenues for a setting that feels comfortable and accepting.
However, it could also be that trying to maintain a presence on multiple platforms may actually lead to depression and anxiety.
More research will be needed to tease that apart.”
The results come from a 2014 survey of 1,787 US adults aged between 19 and 32.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior (Primack et al., 2017).