Study Finds That Middle-aged Adults Increase Their Risk of Depression Through Using Social Media Sites Younger People Frequent

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A study from Harvard University has found that adults aged 35, and above increase their risk of depression when using social media sites that younger people frequent. Researchers realized that adults who used Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook were more likely to develop depression.

The researchers titled the study Association Between Social Media Use and Self-reported Symptoms of Depression in US Adults and publicized it in the JAMA Network Open journal.

How researchers conducted the study 

Researchers gathered 5400 middle-aged adults for the study. The experiments focused on two periods starting in 2020, and the team asked the volunteers to fill a questionnaire on their mental health. They followed up on them a year later and asked them the same question.

When examining 2021’s results, the team noticed a considerable mental health deterioration in 9% of the participants. They analyzed their results and concluded that adults using TikTok, Facebook, and Snapchat were more likely to report depression.

According to Professor Roy Perlis, the lead study author, adults on TikTok were 1.5 times more prone to depression. Adults who used Snapchat were also more likely to report depression than those who didn’t. Surprisingly, people under 35 years old were more likely to feel stressed when using Facebook.

While the team didn’t know why different age groups reacted differently to social media sites, they had a few theories. They theorized that middle-aged adults felt left out when visiting sites that younger people frequented. These sites also made them feel old.

Some social media sites are used predominantly by specific age groups. For instance, people younger than 35 use Snapchat and TikTok. Facebook, on the other hand, has more older adults.

The team points out limitations in their studies

Nevertheless, researchers noted that there were limitations to their research. For example, they did not account for the content the adults were consuming or the time they spent on the internet. Furthermore, there was no proof that social media caused depression. Instead, it could be a particular social media site that causes depression or that the people visiting it are prone to depression.

Despite their shortcomings, researchers note that their findings are consistent with other studies that show a correlation between social media and depression.

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