Negative experiences on Facebook can increase the odds of depression in young people, a new study found.
“It’s important that people take interactions on social media seriously and don’t think of it as somehow less impactful because it’s a virtual experience as opposed to an in-person experience,” said study author Samantha Rosenthal. She is an epidemiology research associate at Brown University’s School of Public Health in Providence, R.I.
“It’s a different forum that has real emotional consequences,” she said in a university news release.
Of 264 study participants surveyed in 2013 and 2014, more than 8 in 10 reported at least one negative Facebook experience, such as bullying, meanness, misunderstandings or unwanted contacts. And 63 percent said they’d had four or more negative experiences since they’d started using the online service.
Moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms were reported by about one-quarter of the respondents. The risk of depressive symptoms was 3.2 times higher among those who had any negative Facebook experiences compared with those who had not, the study found.
Certain factors affected the risk of depressive symptoms. For example, bullying or meanness was associated with a 3.5 times higher risk, while unwanted contact was linked with a 2.5 times higher risk.
Unwanted contact or misunderstandings were associated with a higher risk of depressive symptoms only if there were four or more such incidents, whereas just one to three instances of bullying or meanness were associated with a higher risk, the study authors said.
And the more severe a person perceived the incidents to be, the more likely they were to have symptoms of depression, according to the study.
The study results were published recently in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discusses cyberbullying.