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SOCIAL MEDIA AND

DEPRESSION
By Christine Nielsen
March 5, 2018

Figure 1: Courtesy of Mike Mackenzie www.vpnsrus.com

How Concerned Should We Be?


Social media has transformed the way we communicate with each other and society. While there are many
advantages associated with this form of communication, recent research suggests, there is a strong
connection between social media use and depression. According to the World Health Organization,
depression affects over 300 million people globally and is the leading cause of disability world-wide. If that is
not concerning enough, long-term, severe depression may lead to suicide. Every year, almost 800,000
people die from suicide and it is the 2nd highest cause of death in people ages 15-29 . This is one of the many
reasons it is so critical to understand the relationship between social media use and depression.
To better understand the connection between
social media use and depression, it is important,
to consider current research on the subject.

In his ground-breaking research, Brian Primack,


MD., Ph.D., director of the University of
Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media,
Technology, and Health, suggests that higher
levels of social media consumption, across
multiple platforms, and for longer periods, are
more likely to contribute to feelings of anxiety
and depression. Additionally, Primack found the
level of emotional connection an individual has
with their social media community, combined
with the afore mentioned findings, may have a
negative impact on emotional health.

According to Pew Research Center 7 in 10, or 70% of all Americans use some type of social
media platform. YouTube is the most popular social media site visited at 73% compared to
Facebook’s 68%, yet Facebook, with 74%, is the most daily visited social media site.
Other research suggests, that it is the subjective
experiences associated with social media use, that
significantly impacts emotional well-being.

According to, Samantha Rosenthal, Ph.D., M.P.H. of


Brown University, individuals that experience
negative encounters with specific social media
platforms such as Facebook, are independently
associated with instances of depression. In a survey
administered to 264 young adults, Rosenthal found,
over 80% of respondents reported at least one
negative encounter on Facebook, while 60% reported
at least four. Negative experiences measured in this
report include:” bullying or meanness, unwanted
contact, misunderstandings, or any negative
experience.”

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Anonymity Online


“Cyberbullies who are anonymous are relentless.
They find a weakness and hammer it over and
over.” -Man 59
Pew Research Center suggests online harassment
Pew Research Center
causes emotional and mental distress, increasing
the risk of depression, with social media
platforms being the most likely place to
experience online harassment.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: GAMING AND ONLINE HARASSMANT

“I play a lot of online games. …Anything


perceived as poor in-game performance can lead
to name calling and escalate to personal threats
and attacks in seconds.”

-Man 26

Pew Research Center


Cost of Depression
The costs associated with depression can be
devastating to both the individual experiencing
depression and to society.

▪ Adults ages 18-25 have the highest occurrence


rate of depression at 10.9%.
▪ Depression affects an individual’s ability to
interact with school, work, friends and family.
▪ Additionally, depression has been linked to
physical disorders such as cardiovascular
disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and chronic
pain disorders.
▪ The financial cost of depression in America, is a
staggering 210 billion dollars, with 48-50% of
the cost associated with lost productivity at
More than 16.2 million or 6.7% of the US
work, and 45-47% attributed to medical costs. population suffers from depression.

The current research is conclusive, social media use is directly implicated in


instances of depression, with the most vulnerable population being 18-25-year-olds.
Therefore, as more young adults turn to social media, we can expect to see an
upsurge in anxiety and depression within this age group. This, in turn, will lead to
more individuals suffering from depression, which will have a negative impact on
their physical and emotional health. As this debilitating condition spreads throughout
the population, society will pay the ultimate cost.
Works Cited

Duggan, Maeve. “Online Harassment 2017.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research
Center, 11 July 2017, www.pewinternet.org/2017/07/11/online-harassment-2017/.

Kessler, Ronald C. “The Costs of Depression.” The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, U.S. National Library
of Medicine, Mar. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3292769/.

Kuhl, Emily K. “Quantifying the Cost of Depression.” Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, American
Psychiatric Association, workplacementalhealth.org/Mental-Health-
Topics/Depression/Quantifying-the-Cost-of-Depression.

Media Centre. “Depression.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, Feb. 2017,
www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/.

National Institute of Mental Health. “Major Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Nov. 2017, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-
depression.shtml.

Pew Research Center. “Social Media Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 5 Feb. 2018,
www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/.

Rosenthal, Samantha R, et al. “Negative Experiences on Facebook and Depressive Symptoms Among Young
Adults.” Journal of Adolescent Health, Elsevier, 18 Aug. 2016,
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1054139X16301719?_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_origin=gate
way&_docanchor=&md5=b8429449ccfc9c30159a5f9aeaa92ffb#tbl2.

Shensa, Ariel, et al. “Social Media Use and Depression and Anxiety Symptoms: A Cluster Analysis.” American
Journal of Health Behavior, vol. 42, no. 2, Mar. 2018, pp. 116–128. Ccm, EBSCOhost,
doi:10.5993/AJHB.42.2.11. Accessed 12 Mar. 2018.

Zagorski, Nick. “Using Many Social Media Platforms Linked With Depression, Anxiety Risk.” Psychiatrics
News, American Psychiatric Association, 17 Jan. 2017,
psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.pn.2017.1b16?code=psychnews-site.
Statement of Goals and Choices
It is no secret that social media use is a significant component in our society. However, what
may be less clear, is the role social media use has in the development of anxiety and
depression. Current research suggests, there is a definite link between social media use and
depression. Therefore, my goal for the information effect project is to evaluate these
important research findings and present them in a way that is easily digestible for the average
consumer, with special emphasis placed on the young adult population.
Since the scope of this project is limited, and the available information is so widespread, I
had to be very selective with the research I chose to include in this project. Thus, I chose to
include the newest and most relevant research I had access to, one of which, is not due for
publication until April. To keep my project clear and focused, I decided to stay within the
bounds of three research studies and use supplementary research to add support to those
findings. Finally, while depression and social media use is a global issue, for this report, I
elected to narrow the focus to the US population.
Surprisingly, the most enjoyable aspect of this assignment was the planning and creation of
the design elements. My goal with the design and layout of this report is threefold, 1) to create
a visually engaging piece, 2) convey information in a straightforward way, and 3) keep the
design streamlined and professional. I intentionally chose shades of blue to mimic popular
social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, to create an atmosphere of familiarity
and continuity for the audience. Further, all the research is color coded and grouped together
to create flow. For example, the charts and graphs are grouped together with the relevant
research, with the same shade of blue linking them together. Additionally, all written research
findings are blocked in the same shade of blue, so the reader can easily identify them
throughout the report. I also incorporated individual quotes, where appropriate, to add a
personal touch and to keep an emotional connection with the reader. Lastly, I chose to soften
the background, to create less glare, and allow the white contained in the graphs and charts to
move forward into the viewers line of sight.
The finished report turned out very differently than I originally intended. When I began
planning for this project, I considered creating an info-graphic to present the information.
However, I soon realized an info-graphic, while engaging, would not allow me to present the
depth of information that I wanted to convey. By switching to an enhanced visual report, I had
greater flexibility with layout and design. Another change that I made, was to narrow my
audience from the general population to adults between the ages of 18-30. This is because the
research clearly specifies this population as the most vulnerable to the impacts of social media
use and depression.