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Study: Facebook Not Linked to Depression

Update Date: Jul 10, 2012 10:43 AM EDT

Facebook has more than 900 million registered users and more than 70 percent of adolescents use popular social networking sites including Facebook. But, could the world's biggest social networking site be leading to depression?

According to a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health study, there is not a connection between depression and the amount of time spent on Facebook and other social-media sites.

Researchers say that it may be unnecessarily alarming to advise patients and parents on the risk of "Facebook Depression" based solely on the amount of Internet use. The results are published online today in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

In 2011, a report was released that suggested that social media could lead to depression. Lead Researcher Lauren Jelenchick said this study will help doctors better advise their patients.

"Our study is the first to present scientific evidence on the suggested link between social-media use and risk of depression," said Jelenchick. "The findings have important implications for clinicians who may prematurely alarm parents about social-media use and depression risks."

Researchers surveyed nearly 200 college students between the ages of 18 and 23. They assessed the participants' Internet activity and screened them for depression through a 43 text-message questionnaires at random intervals over a seven-day period between February and December of 2011. The students were asked if they were currently online, how many minutes they had been online and what they were doing on the Internet.

Researchers found that the survey participants were on Facebook for over half of the total time online. Based on those finding and the depression-screening results, they found no significant associations between social-media use and the probability of depression.

Lead Researcher Megan Moreno said parents should look at their children's social-media use in the context of their entire lives. She says parents don't have to be overly concerned if their child's behavior and mood haven't changed, they have friends and their school work is consistent.

"While the amount of time on Facebook is not associated with depression, we encourage parents to be active role models and teachers on safe and balanced media use for their children," said Moreno.

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