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Social media, television use could be a depression risk for teens, study finds

The study observed almost 4,000 adolescents in Montreal for six years, and measured their social media, television, video game and computer usage.

Too much social media and television use could be a risk for depression in adolescents, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics

The study observed 3,826 students who entered the seventh grade in 31 schools in Montreal. Data was collected for the study for six years, between Sept. 2012 to Sept. 2018. Students were asked to complete surveys that measured their screen time use and symptoms of depression. 

The study measured depression by having students fill out a survey on how often they experiences common symptoms of depression. Screen time use was measured by a separate survey measuring the amount of time students spent on four different types of screen time usage: social media, television, video games and computer. 

The researchers found that higher levels of social media and television use correlated with more severe symptoms of depression in the students observed.

For each one hour increase in social media useage in a given year, there was a corresponding increase in depression symptoms for that same year. The same was found for a one hour increase in television usage. However, those who already watched high levels of television and did not increase their usage year to year reported fewer depression symptoms. 

Similarly, high levels of computer usage over four years was also associated with more severe depression symptoms, but the symptoms didn't increase in severity when computer usage levels increased within the year. 

Researchers did not find any significant relationships between video games and depression symptoms. 

The researchers emphasized that further research is still needed to confirm that social media usage can be be definitively linked to depression in teens. The study did not look into how different social media platforms affected teens' depression symptoms, such as Snapchat vs Facebook or Instagram. It also did not study if different genres of television affected teen depression symptoms. The study also did not determine if the subjects were already exhibiting these symptoms, which were made worse with screen usage, or if they developed them as a direct cause of the screen usage.