Using multiple social media platforms can increase the risk of depression and anxiety by over three times, especially in young adults, a new study has warned. Compared with the total time spent on social media, use of multiple platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults, researchers said.
The analysis showed that people who report using seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than their peers who use zero to two platforms, even after adjusting for the total time spent on social media overall.
“This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counselling them that this use may be related to their symptoms,” said Brian A Primack, from the University of Pittsburgh in the US.
In 2014, researchers sampled 1,787 US adults ages 19 through 32, using an established depression assessment tool and questionnaires to determine social media use. The questionnaires asked about the 11 popular social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn. ALSO READ: Social media has negative impact on workplace productivity: Study
Participants who used seven to 11 platforms had 3.1 times the odds of reporting higher levels of depressive symptoms than their counterparts who used zero to two platforms. Those who used the most platforms had 3.3 times the odds of high levels of anxiety symptoms than their peers who used the least number of platforms. The researchers controlled for other factors that may contribute to depression and anxiety, including race, gender, relationship status, household income, education and total time spent on social media.
Primack emphasized that the directionality of the association is unclear. “It may be that people who suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety, or both, tend to subsequently use a broader range of social media outlets,” said Primack. “However, it could also be that trying to maintain a presence on multiple platforms may actually lead to depression and anxiety,” he said. ALSO READ: Here’s how social media is changing the travel industry
Researchers proposed several hypotheses for why using multiple social media sites use drive depression and anxiety. Multitasking, as would happen when switching between platforms, is known to be related to poor cognitive and mental health outcomes, researchers said. The distinct set of unwritten rules, cultural assumptions and idiosyncrasies of each platform are increasingly difficult to navigate when the number of platforms used rises, which may lead to negative mood and emotions.
There is also more opportunity to commit a social media faux pas when using multiple platforms, which can lead to repeated embarrassments, researchers said. The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.