Link between social media and depression stronger in teen girls than boys, study says

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ/CNN) — Though social media can be a helpful tool for teenagers to learn and connect with friends, experts have long warned that too much Snapchatting or Instagramming can come with downsides.

There appears to be a connection between social media use and depressive symptoms in 14-year-olds, and that connection may be much stronger for girls than boys, according to a study published in the journal EClinicalMedicine.

Among teens who use social media the most — more than five hours a day — the study showed a 50 percent increase in depressive symptoms among girls versus 35 percent among boys, when their symptoms were compared with those who use social media for only one to three hours daily.

WSAZ’s Kathryn Robinson sat down with six freshman students from Huntington High School to get their take on the study.

The students spend most of their time scrolling on Instagram or SnapChat and say they spend on average one to two hours a day on social media.

But the teens say they know friends and classmates that don’t take their eyes off their phones.

“So we’re talking over six hours?” Kathryn asked. “Yeah probably, some of their screen time, it’s like 13 hours a day,” Levi Strieter said.

“Some people are really addicted to it,” Fiona Reynolds added.

The teens were not surprised to hear that girls were affected more than boys.

“I think more girls are trying to go for that Instagram aesthetic than boys care about what they put up,” Reynolds said.

Kyleigh Hoey says she thinks it’s because girls have a higher image to uphold, put on them by society.

The girls said they try to not compare themselves to others based on appearance but say sometimes it happens subconsciously.

Hannah Reynolds says she has to step away from social media if she starts to feel down or compare herself.

The teens talked about how what you see on social media isn’t always relatable.

“They even have things (apps) where they can shrink their face,” Strieter said. “And make their hair bigger,” Hoey added.

The teenagers say they know some classmates or friends who will spend nearly 45 minutes editing a picture before they will post it.

According to the study, it’s not just comparison that contributes to depressive symptoms.

“There’s cyber bullying that still goes on,” James Scott said.

The students say cyber bullying is much more prevalent than bullying in the classroom.

But Jeremiah Rogers agrees with his peers that there are good and dangerous aspects to social media.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 10,904 14-year-olds who were born between 2000 and 2002 in the United Kingdom. The data, which came from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, included information from questionnaires on the teens’ depressive symptoms and social media use.

Depressive symptoms were recorded as scores, and the researchers looked at which teens had high or low scores. They found that, on average, girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys.

The researchers also found that girls reported more social media use than boys; 43.1 percent of girls said they used social media for three or more hours per day, versus 21.9 percent of boys.

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 data showed that for teens using social media for three to five hours, 26 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys had depressive symptom scores higher than those who used social media for only about one to three hours a day.


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