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Is depression linked with social media use in adults? – Medical News Today

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New research finds a link between depressive symptoms and social media use among adults. peepo/Getty Images
  • Researchers investigated the link between social media use and depression in adults, including older adults.
  • They found that the use of some social media, but not all, has associations with an increased risk of depressive symptoms.
  • Alongside expert commentators, the team asks for caution when interpreting the results due to study limitations and uncertainty around causation.

The use of social media has correlations with reduced well-being and increased anxiety and depression among adolescents and young adults.

One review highlighted a study that found using the internet to communicate and play games for more than 4 hours a day predicts depressive symptoms 1 year later. The research also found that depressive symptoms predict increased internet use and decreased participation in nonscreen activities.

Another study involving 990 participants in the United States found a link between social media use and the development of depression. However, preexisting depression did not predict social media use.

However, how accurate these studies are may be questionable because many of them rely on self-reported social media use. A review of 47 studies investigating the accuracy of self-reported digital media use raised a concern that self-reported measurements rarely correlate with logged measurements.

Furthermore, studies often do not include adults in their samples, so the effects of social media on older age groups are relatively unknown.

Lastly, whether there is a causal relationship between social media use and depression — and which comes first — is still unknown.

Recently, researchers conducted a survey study investigating the link between social media use and the development of depressive symptoms.

The results suggest certain social media use preceded the worsening of depressive outcomes. The findings appear inJAMA Network Open.

However, some experts doubt the extent to which these findings can be interpreted.

The researchers analyzed results from survey data taken between May 2020 and May 2021 from individuals aged 18 years and above. The survey sample included quotas for sex, age, and race and ethnicity from each of the 50 states in the U.S. to ensure it was representative of the country’s population.

Survey questions included the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) to assess for depressive symptoms. Questions examined whether participants had “little interest or pleasure in doing things” and whether they were “feeling down, depressed, or hopeless” on a four-point scale.

The researchers also queried participants on:

  • their use of social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok
  • whether they consumed any sources of COVID-19-related news in the last 24 hours
  • the number of social supports they have available to discuss problems
  • the number of face-to-face meetings they had with nonhousehold members in the previous 24 hours

For the data analysis, the team included participants who had filled out the surveys at least twice and had an initial PHQ-9 score of less than 5, indicating less than mild depression.

Overall, 5,395 people completed two surveys. Their average age was 55.8 years old, while 65.7% were female, 4.7% Hispanic, 10.6% Black, and 76.3% white.

From their analyses, the researchers noted that Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok use in the first survey had associations with a significantly greater risk of an increase in self-reported depressive symptoms.

They also noted that COVID-19-related news participants consumed in the last 24 hours alongside the number of social supports and daily face-to-face interactions only impacted results linked to Snapchat.

While TikTok and Snapchat use had correlations with depressive symptoms among those aged 35 years and older, but not those younger than 35, Facebook use had associations with depressive symptoms among those under 35, but not those older than 35.

The researchers say that due to the observational nature of their study, they cannot ascertain why social media use may have links to depression. However, they identify possible mechanisms.

“One possible explanation for our results is that people who are at risk for depression, even if they’re not currently depressed, are more likely to use social media,” Roy H. Perlis, M.D., M.Sc., lead author of the study, told Medical News Today.

“Another is that social media actually contributes to that increased risk. With our study design, we can’t distinguish between the two. What we can exclude is the possibility that depressed people are more likely to report social media use, which was a limitation of some previous studies,” he added.

When asked to explain what might be behind this association, Sara Makin, M.S.Ed. NCC., LPC., and founder and CEO of Makin Wellness, who was not involved in the study, highlighted that when isolated, people may turn to social media as a way to feel more connected. However, this may have an inverse effect and therefore result in depressive symptoms.

She also noted the effect of social comparison: “Social media often only shows people ‘living their best lives’ or the positive things that are happening like purchasing a new house, getting a new job, graduating from college, etc. Most people compare their failures to others’ successes, which can make us have negative thoughts about ourselves.”

While it seems as though rates of depression increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, some question whether social media use had a casual role at all.

“Big limitations make it difficult, if not impossible, to conclude anything worthwhile from the findings, “ Craig J. R. Sewall, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the study, told MNT.

“The item they used to measure use of [social media] platforms is a simple ‘yes/no’ response to this question: ‘do you ever use any of the following social media sites or apps?’ So a person [who] used Instagram, for example, 5 years ago and a person [who] used Instagram 5 hours ago would both answer ‘yes.’”

“That’s a big problem and renders this finding practically meaningless: In adjusted regression models, Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok use at first survey were significantly associated with greater risk of increase in self-reported depressive symptoms,” he continued.

“Because the question about [social media] use was phrased the way it was, even if they found an association between [social media] use and depression, they would have no way to ascertain whether that [social media] use was recent or a long time ago, whether they frequently visited the [social media] platform or whether it was a ‘one-and-done’ situation [or both]. As a result, it’s a big stretch to conclude that participants’ increase in depression between May 2020 and May 2021 had anything to do with whether they used certain [social media] platforms,” he explained.

“I believe the ‘link’ found in this study is dubious but, generally, if there is a link [between social media] and depression, there could be a number of explanations. In the time of COVID-19, I believe the most plausible explanation is that many people experienced increases in depression due to the myriad negative impacts of the pandemic.”

– Dr. Sewall

“At the same time, people had to rely more on digital technology like [social media] to connect with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. So people who became more depressed due to the pandemic may have relied on [social media] more as a coping mechanism,” he concluded.

“Explaining the links between social media use and depression requires a lot of careful thought and precise methodology, “ said Dr. Fisher. “In my personal opinion, this should be done in a way that moves away from cross-sectional, self-report measures like are employed in this study and toward measures that consider the individual (sometimes called idiographic methods), and those which measure social media use in a more objective fashion (like using device logs or a data donation framework).”

“I just don’t know that we have enough evidence from this paper to decisively conclude that there is a link between social media use and depression, much less that the causal directionality here is that social media use [leads to] depression. It’s also possible that those who were more depressed during the pandemic happened to use social media more (e.g., to connect with friends). The methods used here don’t let us conclude either way,” he added.

The researchers conclude that we need to understand the relationship between social media use and mental health better.

“Even if social media use is only telling us about underlying risk, rather than causing it, can we understand why?” said Dr. Perlis. “Might we be able to intervene to prevent depression and anxiety? We hope that our work will inform both mental health researchers and policymakers in thinking about how to study and potentially act on this relationship. What we can’t​ continue to do is simply ignore this association or try to wave it away as a statistical artifact.”

The researchers note that their study has several limitations. Firstly, they say they could not properly control for all factors that may have influenced their results. They stress that their research does not prove causation and that social media use may “simply be a marker of underlying vulnerability to depression.”

When asked how these findings should influence public health, Ms. Makin said: “For one, limits for the amount of social media that one consumes should be set. This can be easily done by going into your settings on your [smartphone], so once you have reached your limit for the day, you can no longer access the app.”

“Likewise, research may need to be done to determine what is an appropriate amount of time to spend on social media where it makes us feel good but does not cause us to become fixated on the lives of others and cause feelings of depression. It may also be helpful to suggest changes about the way that we interact and react on social media with others. Teenagers and adolescents who have social media accounts may need to be monitored more closely to make sure they are not victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying,” she added.

However, Dr. Sewall believes these findings should not influence public health recommendations, given the “flimsy” evidence:

“If the hope is to help people improve their well-being during these very difficult times, I believe it would be a waste of time and resources to focus on people’s [social media] use. [It would be] much better to focus on some of the myriad other issues that have been impacted by the pandemic — like financial security.”

Dr. Fisher agreed that these findings should not directly influence public health recommendations, “at least not in an extreme way.”

Dr. Fisher added: “I do hope that findings like these generate some momentum toward pressuring social media companies to share their data with independent researchers, because this is likely the only way for us to come up with evidence that is actually conclusive with regard to the links between social media use and depression.”

“I am all for increased accountability for social media platforms, but the fact is that social media use is very idiosyncratic, and for some people, it’s positive, and for others, it’s negative, just like many other behaviors.”

“We are likely to actually set our understanding back if we are too quick to pathologize everyday behaviors. I would be disappointed if healthcare practitioners and other public health officials use the findings from this study as justification for any kind of causal link between social media use and depression, especially in a general sense.”

– Dr. Fisher

“There is by no means a consensus in the academic community that ‘social media,’ or even particular social platforms are harmful to mental health in a general sense and [we] need much better data to be more sure about these links, and even more so to understand which direction the causal order flows,” Dr. Fisher concluded.

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Media availability following Council meeting – ottawa.ca

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Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Keith Egli, Chair, Ottawa Board of Health, Steve Kanellakos, City Manager, Kim Ayotte, General Manager, Emergency and Protective Services, and Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health, will respond to media questions after today’s Council meeting.

Residents will be able to watch the media availability on the City’s YouTube channel, rogerstv.com or RogersTV Cable 22.

When: Wednesday, January 26

Time: 15 minutes after Council adjourns

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NDP MPs criticized for ‘terrible’ social media comments on Ukraine-Russia crisis – Global News

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Three sitting New Democrat MPs are being criticized for posting “terrible” comments about the escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia on social media, some of which questioned Canada’s support for Ukraine in the face of Moscow’s aggression.

Winnipeg Centre MP Leah Gazan has since apologized for sharing an article on Twitter over the weekend criticizing Canada’s “hawkish” stance on the crisis while accusing the federal government of supporting “an anti-Semitic, neo-nazi (sic) & fascist militia.”

“As a descendent of a holocaust (sic) survivor,” Gazan wrote, such support was “horrifying” to her.

Gazan said in a later statement that she was referring to far-right militias and members of the Ukrainian military that have fought Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea.

“I did not equate the situation in Ukraine to the Holocaust and I do not believe that the vast majority of Ukrainian people or its democratically elected leaders share the beliefs espoused by far-right militias,” Gazan said.

“I sincerely regret that my tweet did not include this important context and may have resulted in harm.”

Read more:

Ukraine-Russia crisis is ongoing. How did we get here, and what’s happening?

Orest Zakydalsky, senior policy advisor for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, told Global News Tuesday that Gazan’s comments were “ignorant, inaccurate and hurtful.”

“The UCC has called on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to disavow these comments,” he said in a statement.

Gazan’s tweet was also criticized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which accused Gazan of being uninformed.

“Comparing the Holocaust with the situation unfolding between Ukraine & Russia suggests ignorance of both,” the group said on Twitter.


Click to play video: 'Ukraine crisis intensifies as Russia launches new military drills'



3:02
Ukraine crisis intensifies as Russia launches new military drills


Ukraine crisis intensifies as Russia launches new military drills

Moscow has denied it is planning an assault, but it has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks and is holding military drills at multiple locations in Russia. That has led the United States and its NATO allies — including Canada — to rush to prepare for a possible war.

Canada has loaned Ukraine $120 million to help bolster the country’s economy in the wake of the Russian threat. Government sources have also told Global News the Liberal cabinet is currently discussing sending small weapons and ammunition to the country during its three-day cabinet retreat.

The NDP’s official position on what it calls a “looming crisis” says it supports the people of Ukraine and is concerned about Russia’s increased hostility, but says Canada should focus on non-lethal assistance and diplomatic solutions.

Read more:

Canada criticized for ‘soft, tentative language’ amid Ukraine-Russia crisis

The party also expresses concern towards far-right elements within the Ukrainian military, some of whom have boasted of being trained by Canada and other NATO allies, according to a recent report from George Washington University.

While extremist groups have long targeted military members in countries around the world — including Canada — Russia has been accused of weaponizing accusations of Nazism in Ukraine’s military and government for political gain.

In September 2021, Ukraine passed a law that defines and bans anti-Semitism in the country, including harbouring anti-Semitic sentiments — although it does not stipulate any punishments for breaking the law. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and former prime minister Volodymyr Groysman are Jewish, making Ukraine the only country besides Israel to have had two Jewish heads of state.

In an emailed response to Global News Tuesday, an NDP spokesperson pointed to the party’s official position when asked about Gazan and other MP’s recent comments, and did not say if Singh will address the tweets.


Click to play video: '‘Nobody knows what’s going to happen’: Ukrainian-Canadians anxious as Russian threat looms'



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‘Nobody knows what’s going to happen’: Ukrainian-Canadians anxious as Russian threat looms


‘Nobody knows what’s going to happen’: Ukrainian-Canadians anxious as Russian threat looms

Other tweets criticized

Zakydalsky also criticized fellow Manitoba MP Niki Ashton for promoting similar views. Ashton on Tuesday retweeted a link to a podcast episode that questioned Canada’s “march to war” with Russia and suggested Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s “Nazi past” was contributing to Canada’s support for Ukraine.

Freeland’s maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the editor of a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda during the Second World War, a fact first revealed in 2017. Freeland has accused Russian disinformation agents for using the story to sow division in the West, and has not directly addressed her grandfather’s history.

Yet the podcast hosts openly asked whether Canada’s support for Ukraine was based on democratic values or “returning to the glory of (expletive) Freeland’s grandfather.”

They also address far-right elements in the Ukrainian military and criticizes Canada’s support of them.

Read more:

Canada orders families of diplomats out of Ukraine as fears mount over Russian threat

The Liberal Party did not directly address the accusations in the podcast episode retweeted by Ashton.

The podcast hosts also ask if Canada is simply seeking to justify the building of an ammunition factory in Ukraine — a project Kyiv has been lobbying Canada to help build since 2017 and was confirmed by the Ottawa Citizen this month.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies on Sunday tweeted a link to an article that openly questions if Russia will ever invade Ukraine, calling it a “very helpful discussion.”

“I am certain that the vast majority of the New Democratic Party’s membership and NDP Members of Parliament support the Ukrainian peoples’ defence of their independence and territorial integrity, the views of Ms. Gazan, Mr. Davies and Ms. Ashton notwithstanding,” Zakydalsky of the UCC said in his statement.

“The UCC calls on Mr. Singh to disavow their terrible comments.”

–With files from Mercedes Stephenson, Amanda Connolly and the Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Exclusive-Twitter sees record number of govt demands to remove content, Japan and Russia lead pack

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Twitter said governments around the world made requests to remove content from a record number of user accounts between January and June last year, in data to be released by the social media company on Tuesday.

The platform said governments made 43,387 legal demands for the removal of content from 196,878 accounts in the six-month period, according to data in its latest transparency report seen by Reuters.

Twitter said this was the largest number of accounts ever targeted with government removal requests in a reporting period since the company started releasing transparency reports in 2012. It was also the largest number of government removal requests in a reporting period.

Ninety-five percent of these legal demands came from five countries, with the most coming from Japan, followed by Russia, Turkey, India, and South Korea, it said. The site is blocked in several countries including China and North Korea.

Twitter said it either “withheld” access to content in certain countries or required account holders to remove some or all of the reported content in response to 54% of the global legal demands in this period.

“We’re facing unprecedented challenges as governments around the world increasingly attempt to intervene and remove content,” Twitter’s vice president of global public policy and philanthropy Sinead McSweeney said in a statement. “This threat to privacy and freedom of expression is a deeply worrying trend that requires our full attention.”

Major social media companies face ongoing scrutiny from global governments and regulators over the material they allow on their platforms. In the past year, Twitter has faced high-profile tussles with governments from India to Nigeria over content moderation and regulation.

Twitter has also, along with companies like Facebook and Google, faced criticism in the United States and other countries over how it combats issues like misinformation and violent rhetoric on its platform.

The number of accounts specified in the legal requests was up almost 50% from 131,933 accounts from the previous six months, according to the data. The number of government removal requests increased 14% from 38,524 in the last reporting period and was up about 2.8% year-over-year, Twitter said.

The company said this summer it had seen a surge in government demands worldwide in 2020 to take down content posted by journalists and news outlets, but it said the number of such accounts subject to these requests decreased 14% in the latest reporting period.

The report also said requests from governments for Twitter to preserve account information were down by about 4% from the previous reporting period. It said the United States accounted for about 57% of these requests and the U.S. was also the single largest source of government information requests.

 

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Chris Reese)

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