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here's more proof that social media is hurting young people's mental health

A new study suggests that each hour of screen time increases the severity of depressive symptoms in teens.

by Nicole DeMarco
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Jul 17 2019, 6:26pm

Eddy Chen/HBO.

As we learn more about the effects of social media, many of us have tried to decrease the time we spend scrolling through our phones. Even with screen time limits, it's easy to shamelessly click the “ignore limit” button as soon as it pops up, but maybe it's time we start taking it a bit more seriously. A new groundbreaking study called “Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence,” published this week in JAMA Pediatrics journal links social media usage to depression and it’s one of the most comprehensive pieces of research on this subject to date.

While many studies have indicated that more and more teens are being diagnosed with depression, few have analyzed the relationship between screen time and mental illness over time. In surveying 3,826 high school students in Canada over four years, researchers found that each hour of screen time, whether it be spent on social media, watching television, or generally on the internet, increases the severity of depressive symptoms like loneliness, sadness, or hopelessness in teens. Additionally, of those surveyed, girls and those of lower socioeconomic status showed even more severe symptoms of depression.

Naturally, the type of content consumed via screen plays a role here. And there are a number of unsettling findings in this survey, for example — exposure to television that depicts idealized bodies leads to greater body dissatisfaction, comparing yourself to others on social media leads to lower self esteem (Instagram, get rid of those likes already!), and that people seek out content (not without the help of algorithms) that reinforces some of these beliefs.

This study is so important because depression during teenage years can cause significant academic and cognitive impairment, often leading to substance abuse, poor interpersonal relationships, low self-esteem, and suicide. By 2020, mental health issues including depression are predicted to be the leading cause of death among young people. It’s time to take mental health, and perhaps screen time limits more seriously.