February 13, 2016

Facebook and depression not linked

There is no correlation between time spent on popular social networking sites and the probability of adolescent depression, according to a study of UW-Madison students, which debunks an earlier report on the subject. “I think one of the take home messages from this really is the importance of evidence-based medicine, of really making sure that the guidelines that are out there for physicians and for health care providers is really strongly supported by empirical findings by data.”

Lauren Jelenchick is a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health researcher who led the study of 18-23 year old students. She says this is “the first to present scientific evidence” on questions of any associations between social-media use and the probability of depression — as suggested last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Jelenchick says the use of facebook actually serves a purpose in adolescent development, including acting as a sort of support group in times of need. “Facebook serves a lot of different purposes for young people, so use can be part of a normal adolescent experience. It can be part of, you know, a friend network — a support network — and it can be a very important part of adolescent development now.”

The findings of the UW study, Jelenchick says, “have important implications for clinicians who may prematurely alarm parents about social-media use and depression risks.” She says it’s necessary for doctors and parents to do the right thing, by taking a “cautious approach” and using “evidence-based” recommendations.

The results are published online Monday in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:45

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