Study Shows More Than Just Social Media Use May be Causing Depression in Young Adults

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.

Over the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of depression in adolescents and young adults—and a simultaneous uptick in the inclusion of technology and social media in everyday life. However, it is unclear how exactly social media use and depression are associated and relate to other behaviors, such as physical activity, green space exposure, cannabis use, and eveningness (the tendency to stay up late).

In a study published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, a team of researchers led by experts at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center investigated the association among social media use, depression, and other health-related behaviors of young adults over time.

“Research shows that when social media use is high, depression is also high. But the question is—is that because social media caused that person to be depressed? Or is it because people who are depressed tend to also use social media more and spend less time exercising and being in green spaces? That is what we wanted to understand,” says Carol Vidal, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., the first author of the study, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In their study, 376 young adults in Canada (82.4% women) were asked to complete three online questionnaires between May 2021 and January 2022. At each point, participants self-reported depressive symptoms based on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)—a nine-item scale that is commonly used to measure depression—as well as social media use, greenspace exposure, physical activity, and cannabis use.

The researchers found that most study participants had at least mild depressive symptoms. Findings showed that participants who had higher social media use tended to be more depressed, and people who were more depressed also tended to use social media more. However, researchers found that social media use did not cause an increase or decrease in depressive symptom levels over time.

“We found that if you tended to be a person who was depressed, you were a person also spending more time on social media,” explains Vidal.

Researchers also found that higher levels of social media use and higher levels of depressive symptoms were associated with lower levels of green space exposure. In addition, cannabis use and higher eveningness were also associated with higher depressive levels.

Source: MedicalXpress

Help us reach the next generation of families

Back to Top

[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns, HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches. Learn More »

  • Support Our Mission

    HomeWord is non-profit, donor supported ministry. If you would like to partner with HomeWord in our effort to help more parents and families you can make a donation. Your investment will allow us to expand this ministry by offering more resources to families and churches in need.

  • Contact Information

    • HomeWord
      PO Box 1600
      San Juan Capistrano, CA

    • Send us an email

    • 800-397-9725
      (M-F: 8:30am-5pm PST)