JUN 12, 2024 5:29 AM PDT

Study Explores The Link Between Depression and Health-Related Behaviors of Young People

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A Johns Hopkins University research team examined the association among social media use, depression, and other health-related behaviors of young people. The findings published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction suggest that most participants demonstrated at least mild depressive symptoms. 

The study included 376 Canadian young adults. Most were women (82.4%). The participants completed three online questionnaires between May 2021 and January 2022. The questions asked participants to describe their social media use, cannabis use, physical activity, and green space exposure.

The participants also completed a Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) three times during the study. The PHQ-9 is a nine-question scale that asks participants to assess any depressive symptoms they might be experiencing.

The findings indicated that participants who had higher social media use tended to be more depressed. Participants who were more depressed also tended to use social media more. Study author Dr. Carol Vidal explained, “Research shows that when social media use is high, depression is also high. But the question is — is that because social media caused that person to be depressed? Or is it because people who are depressed tend to also use social media more, and spend less time exercising and being in green spaces? That is what we wanted to understand.” Further research will explore the relationship between these factors and healthy habits that minimize depressive symptoms. 

Researchers also found that higher levels of social media use and depressive symptoms were associated with lower levels of green space exposure. The study found a link between higher depressive levels and cannabis use. Another finding highlighted the association between depression and Unhealthy sleep patterns (such as staying up late). 

The study authors say these results show social media use and depression are associated but do not provide evidence that greater social media use predicts an increase in depressive symptoms over time. The team also says these findings indicate people who suffer from depression should be cautious about the amount of time they spend on social media and should be encouraged to incorporate other healthy habits into their lifestyle.

Sources: Eureka News Alert, International Journal of Mental Health and AddictionPatient Health Questionnaire


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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