A much-higher rate of depression in girls is closely linked to the greater time they spend on social media, reported The Guardian. Online bullying and poor sleep are the main culprits for their low mood, a new study reveals.
Research shows that many 14-year-old girls who suffer from depression also have low self-esteem, are unhappy with how they look and sleep for seven hours or less each night. “Girls, it seems, are struggling with these aspects of their lives more than boys, in some cases considerably so,” said Professor Yvonne Kelly, from University College London, who led the team behind the findings.
The results prompted renewed concern about the rapidly accumulating evidence that young women exhibit a range of mental health problems than boys and young men, and about the damage these can cause, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
The study is based on interviews with almost 11,000 14-year-olds who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, a major research project into children’s lives. It found that many girls spend far more time using social media than boys, and also that they are much more likely to display signs of depression linked to their interaction on platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.
“The link between social media use and depressive symptoms was stronger for girls compared with boys. For girls, greater daily hours of social media use corresponded to a stepwise increase in depressive symptoms,” explained Kelly.
Social media is also closely associated with poor sleeping habits, especially among 14-year-olds showing clinical signs of depression. While just 5.4% of girls and 2.7% of boys overall said they slept for seven hours or less, 48.4% of girls with low mood and 19.8% of such boys said the same. Half of depressed girls and a quarter of depressed boys said that they suffer from disrupted sleep “most of the time”.
The authors say the sleep disruption is due to young people staying up late to use social media and being woken up by alerts coming in to their phones beside their beds. Their findings are published on Friday in EClinicalMedicine, a journal published by the Lancet.
Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.