Study: Facebook does not make teens depressed

No correlation found; fear over "Facebook depression" baseless

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
July 11, 2012
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/284d

I go on Facebook a lot. It is mostly out of boredom. Or perhaps habit at this point. But it helps me to see what is going on with people I once called friends: people I would have no opportunity to see or speak to otherwise.

Sometimes, though, I see what those people are up to and it’s hard to not be jealous of them. Either they got some amazing job that will set them for life, or they are going on vacation to somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. It’s hard to not feel some envy. I'm not alone.

In fact, in some cases, being aware of what everyone's doing can lead to some depression. This happens on and offline. 

A report released last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that exposure to social networks could cause depression in teens and preteens, leading to so-called “Facebook depression.” How do those who are too young to be emotionally mature enough to handle such feelings react when one of their friends does not respond to their message or defriends them?

It’s a good question to ask, and for the first time we have a scientific answer.

According to a study published this month done out of the University of Wisconsin School, Facebook does not lead to depression in teenagers.

This contradicts the American Academy of Pediatrics, which wrote, in a report that was guaranteed to give parents nightmares all over the country, that going onto Facebook could lead teens down the road to some very risky behaviors, such as drugs, alcohol and premarital sex.

“Acceptance by and contact with peers is an important element of adolescent life. The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents. As with offline depression, preadolescents and adolescents who suffer from Facebook depression are at risk for social isolation and sometimes turn to risky Internet sites and blogs for ‘help’ that may promote substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, or aggressive or self destructive behaviors,” the report said.

Of course, this was not really based on any actual evidence, but who needs that when you can freak out millions of parents?

To come to her conclusions, Jelenchick surveyed 190 students between the ages of 18 and 23, who were sent questions at random by text, asking them if they were using the Internet, how long they had been on and what they were doing. The students were also subjected to clinical screening methods for depression.

The study found that the students were on Facebook more than half the time they were on the Internet, and found no relation between Facebook use and depression.

"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."

Facebook, and other social networks, are so new that they have not even had the chance to be fully studied yet. Jelenchick may claim to be the first to scientifically study the effect on Facebook in teens, but she is guaranteed to not be the last. 

(Image source: flickr.com)

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