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Heavy use of social media triggers depression

Update Date: Mar 25, 2016 02:45 PM EDT

Frequent use of social media was found to trigger a cycle of depression, according to a study of 19 to 32-year-olds from the United States.  A quarter of the group were found to have high indicators of depression. Those who checked social media most frequently were found to be 2.7 times more likely to develop depression.

The 1,787 participants used social media for an average 61 minutes every day, visiting accounts 30 times per week, The Independent reported.

Dr Brian Primack, director of Pitt's Centre for Research on Media, Technology and Health, who led the study,  said that a strong possibility for this is that people who are already having depressive symptoms start to use social media more instead of direct social relationships.

He added that there are several reasons why increased social media involvement could lead to more depressive thoughts. Among those is the feeling that their lives are not at par with those being portrayed  by others present in their Facebook profiles.  Such phenomenon is referred to as "Facebook depression".

Primack warned that there is a vicious circle with people who become depressed turning to social media for support, but their excessive use of it only serves to exacerbate their depression.

The study, by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, looked at the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

There are currently over a billion people actively using Facebook daily, while Twitter attracts 320 million active users every month.

These findings are disturbing as the World Health Organisation published a report in October 2015 that identified depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide.  It is forecasted to become the leading cause of disability in high-income countries by 2030.

The findings could guide clinical and public health interventions to tackle depression, the Daily Mail noted.

Dr Primack hopes that the research may help show how to use powerful tools such as social media to our advantage and not our detriment. He added that his research group does not recommend that people stop using social media as it is an important part of modern-day society and has many important functions.

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