A UK study conducted among more than 10,000 14-year-olds show girls hyperactive on social media are likely to show symptoms of depression than boys. Image Credit: File / For illustrative purposes only

Highlights

  • Coverage: The study used population based data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study on 10,904 14-year-olds.
  • A “multivariate regression” and path models were used to examine associations between social media use and depressive symptoms.
  • The study found that that the magnitude of association between social media use and depressive symptoms was larger for girls than for boys.
  • Compared with 1–3 h of daily use: 3 to < 5 h 26% increase in scores vs 21%; ≥ 5 h 50% vs 35% for girls and boys respectively.
  • Greater social media use were also related to online harassment, poor sleep, low self-esteem and poor body image; in turn these related to higher depressive symptom scores.
  • "Multiple potential" intervening pathways were apparent, for example: greater hours social media use related to body weight dissatisfaction (≥ 5 h 31% more likely to be dissatisfied)
  • This, in turn, is linked to depressive symptom scores directly (body dissatisfaction 15% higher depressive symptom scores) and indirectly via self-esteem.
  • The findings highlight the potential pitfalls of lengthy social media use for young people's mental health.
  • Researchers said their findings are relevant for development of guidelines for the safe use of social media and calls on industry to more tightly regulate hours of social media use.
  • The study by funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

A significant link between hyper use of social media and depressive symptoms in 14-year-olds has been established in a recent survey — and the connection may be much stronger for girls than boys — a study published in the journal EClinicalMedicine on Thursday shows.

"There's an alarming difference," said Yvonne Kelly, author of the study and a professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London in the United Kingdom, told CNN.

Researchers found that those who spent more than five hours a day, there was a remarble gap — a 50 per cent spike in depressive symptoms for girls versus 35 per cent among boys — when their symptoms were compared with those who use social media for only one to three hours daily.

- UK study

The study was conducted among 10,904 UK teens.

Researchers found that those who spent more than five hours a day, there was a remarble gap — a 50 per cent spike in depressive symptoms for girls versus 35 per cent among boys — when their symptoms were compared with those who use social media for only one to three hours daily.

"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 added.

However, the research only showed an association between social media use and symptoms of depression.

Depression symptoms included feelings of unhappiness, restlessness or loneliness.

Researchers also pointed out: the findings does not directly prove that frequent social media use caused depressive symptoms, or vice versa.

This is because other factors — such as lack of sleep and cyberbullying — could help explain the link.

Post millennials

For this study among "post millennials", researchers analysed data on the 14-year-olds born between the year 2000 and 2002 in the UK.

The data, which came from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, included information from questionnaires on the teens' depressive symptoms and social media use.

In terms of methodology, depressive symptoms were recorded as scores.

Researchers looked at which teens had high or low scores.

On average, the study found that girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys.

Moreover, the study also found that girls reported more social media use than boys; 43.1 per cent of girls said they used social media for three or more hours per day, versus 21.9 per cent of boys.