Researchers seem to have found that social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok may be related to an increased likelihood of depressive symptoms in adults. Past research seemed to suggest that social media use was associated with depression for children and young adults, but had not investigated that relationship to older adults. Thus, this study set out to characterize the association between social media use and depressive symptoms.
Researchers recruited 8,045 participants from 13 waves of internet surveys that were conducted between May 2020 and May 2021. The average age of participants in the sample was 56. Participants were excluded from this study if they scored higher than a 5 on the Patient Health Questionnaire (indicating high depression) in the first wave. Participants then completed measures on health, demographic features, and the use of each social media platform.
Researchers found several interesting findings: Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok were significantly associated with greater risk of increase in depressive symptoms. Researchers also found that for high TikTok and Snapchat usage, there was an association with depressive symptoms among those 35 years or better, but not among those younger than 35 years. On the other hand, high Facebook usage indicated an association with depressive symptoms among those younger than 35 years, but not among those 35 and better.
Considering their findings, the researchers believe they identified an association between type of social media use and varying types of depression levels, that is different for younger vs. older age groups. They believe future research should focus on this relationship between social media use and mental health, especially for older adults.
Perlis RH, Green J, Simonson M, et al. Association between social media use and self-reported symptoms of depression in US adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(11):e2136113. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.36113