'Higher use of social media linked to depression in girls'

Image Getty Images

Image Getty Images

Study leader Professor Yvonne Kelly said: "Families may want to reflect on when and where it's OK to be on social media and agree time limits".

"These findings are highly relevant to current policy development on guidelines for the safe use of social media and calls on industry to more tightly regulate hours of social media use for young people", said Kelly.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 10,904 14-year-olds who were born between 2000 and 2002 in the United Kingdom. "We looked at sleeping habits; experiences online, so cyberbullying; how they thought about their bodies, or their body image, and whether they were happy with how they looked; and their self-esteem", she said. Regardless of length of time, girls were consistently about twice as likely to be depressed in relation to their social media use.

It found that two in five girls are on social media at least three hours a day compared to a fifth of their male peers. The paper also revealed that 40 percent of girls said that they often had disrupted sleep.

Rising suicide rates and depression in USA teens and young adults have prompted researchers to ask a provocative question: Could the same devices that some people blame for contributing to tech-age angst also be used to detect it? They found that on average, girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys. Their depressive moods could directly be correlated with the time they spent on social media platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook. "For girls, greater daily hours of social media use corresponded to a stepwise increase in depressive symptoms".

The researchers "still can not definitely say that social media use causes poor mental health, although the evidence is starting to point in that direction", The Guardian quoted Wessely as saying.

The study also found that 12 percent of light social media users and 38 percent of heavy social media users (at least five hours a day) showed signs of having more severe depression.

Girls were also more affected when it came to social media use and concerns about body image, self-esteem and appearance, the researchers found, but here the gender gap was smaller.

Shannon McLaughlin, 18, from Blackburn, explained how social media has harmed her mental health. "Adolescents have social anxiety and exhibit their emotions, views and opinions by communicating to people on social media". This was in comparison with teenagers who used it for one to three hours/day.

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

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