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Extensive use of social websites has been linked to higher risk of anxiety and depression in the general population. People who check their social media accounts frequently are more prone to depression as compared to those who check less frequently.

Ever since social media has become an inevitable part of human life, the effects of social media usage on the mental and psychological health have become a subject of extensive research. A number of investigations have been carried out to explore the potential risks of using social websites habitually.

The earlier investigations showed that excessive social media usage is linked to anxiety and depression which can lead to poor sleep quality and can, therefore, aggravate the depression. Another of the studies also showed close association between social media use and sleep disturbances.

This study was carried out by Dr. Brian Primack and his colleagues at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine in Pennsylvania and was subsequently published in the journal Depression and Anxiety. The researchers used a questionnaire to investigate the association between depression and social media usage in 1,787 adults between the ages of 19 and 32.

The questionnaire was designed to assess the usage of some of the most widely used social websites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram etc. A standardized depression assessment tool was used to establish the level of depression.

Social Media Use Leads To Depression

The study came up with astounding results. It was found out that a person uses social websites on an average of 61 minutes per day. The weekly usage was found to be 31 times per week. More than 1/4th of the study participants were found to have high indicators of depression.

People who use social media sites excessively were found to have 2.7 times higher risk of developing depression and anxiety as compared to those who did not check their social accounts frequently.

The exact cause of how social media usage leads to depression is yet to be found. It was speculated that depression may stem from the fact that most of the people turn to social sites to fill the void in their lives.

It was also postulated that depression and social media use may be linked to each other in a vicious relationship. Social media use leads to depression which leads to more social media use which aggravates the depression and the cycle continues.

Some of the social media sites like Tumblr have added the safety barriers to help people facing psychological issues. Their filters have been designed to detect the words like “depressed” or “suicidal” and redirect the users to the websites that offer help. Even then, the rate of depression is significantly high among social media users.

The Future Implications

The future studies are expected to be directed towards finding the causal relationship between social media use and depression in order to identify people at high risk of depression so that timely help can be given to these people.

This study might prove to be a milestone to guide public health interventions in order to control depression, which is expected to become one of the leading causes of disability by the year 2030, especially in the developed countries.

According to Dr. Primack, since social media has evolved into an integral part of human interaction and communications, it is essential for clinicians to recognize the fine line that is to be trekked between safe usage and over usage.

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