Study: Social media causes lack of sleep, depression among teens

By @iamkarlatecson on
using computer
A person uses a computer in this undated file image. Reuters/Sherwin Crasto

A new study reveals that poor quality of sleep and increased risk of depression among teens may be linked with the feeling of engagement in social media all the time. According to researchers, teenagers are already more vulnerable to depression and anxiety, and sleeping poorly may aggravate the risk of these conditions. They also suggested that there is a link between the use of social media and overall feelings of well-being, particularly in adolescents.

To determine how social media is related to teenagers’ sleep and mental health, researchers from University of Glasgow in Scotland asked more than 460 teenagers aged 11 to 17 about their use of social media during the day and at night. They also assessed the participants’ sleep quality, self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

Through the study, the researchers found a significant link between using social media at any point and decreased sleep quality, lower self-esteem, increased anxiety and depression levels. According to the study’s author, Dr Heather Cleland Woods of the University of Glasgow in Scotland, those who log on to social media sites at night appear to be particularly affected.

Cleland Woods clarified that the use of social media itself is not a negative activity. In the study, presented at the BPS Developmental and Social Psychology Section annual conference in England, Cleland Woods and her team suggested that families use a “digital sunset” to minimise the potential negative effects of social media use on sleep and feelings of well-being.

“Turn off the devices and the blue light, stop checking emails and social media and allow yourself time to finish your day. Sleep is important, so put your phone away,” she said.

This is not the first time that a study on social media and its effects to teenagers’ health was conducted. In 2011, a research presented at the American Psychological Association meeting found a link between the use of social media in teens and traits linked to schizophrenia and depression. Another recent study published in 2015 in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, suggested that frequent social media use in teens was tied to an increased risk of poor mental health.

The National Citizen’s Service, after commissioning a study for its youth programme, found that girls seek comfort from social media when they are anxious and worried. A survey conducted among 1,000 teenage girls aged 12 to 18 determined that nine out of 10 teenage girls have experienced stress in the past year, with seven in 10 cases leading to symptoms of stress-related illnesses. Instead of talking to their parents, the girls said they are more likely to turn to social media, distracting themselves from the pressure they’re under by Snapchatting friends or browsing Facebook.

“Not only has social media added new complexities to their daily lives, but looming, uncertain futures just add to this stress. We need to ensure young people are equipped with the skills to deal with these pressures and to navigate positive paths into adulthood,” said Lucie Russell, campaigns director at the youth mental health charity Young Minds.

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