In a world where we’re more connected than ever, people often turn to social media to keep in touch with people and to spend their downtime when they need something mindless to do.
On the surface, it seems to be an excellent way to bolster your social circle and avoid becoming a hermit in a cave who never talks to anyone.
But that reach for endorphins, and social connection people seek is making their mental health worse, not helping them, according to a new study.
The study was headed by Dr. Roee Levy of the Berglas School of Economics at Tel Aviv University, Prof. Alexey Makarin of MIT Sloan School of Management, and Prof. Luca Braghieri of Bocconi University. They used data that goes back to 2004 and the first launch of Facebook at Harvard among students.
Braghieri explains the study’s purpose, “Over the last fifteen years, the mental health trends of adolescents and young adults in the United States have worsened considerably. Since such worsening in trends coincided with the rise of social media, it seemed plausible to speculate that the two phenomena might be related.”
And it turns out – the study showed that’s exactly what happens.
These are some of the effects they found:
- 7% increase in the number of students who reported having suffered, at least once during the preceding year, depression so severe that it was difficult for them to function
- 20% increase in the number of students who reported anxiety disorders
- 2% increase in the number of students expected to experience moderate to severe depression
- 3% increase in the number of students who experienced impairment to their academic performance due to depression or anxiety.
While these numbers – 7, 20, 2, 3 – don’t sound huge, they’re incredibly statistically significant. Especially in a country where a mental health crisis is meeting an inadequate infrastructure to help people, anything making that burden greater must be addressed as a public health emergency.