ADOLESCENTS who spend three or more hours a day on social media are doubling their risk of mental health problems, research suggests.
The study of 6,600 kids aged 12 to 15 found “heavy users” were twice as likely to report depression, anxiety and loneliness.
They also displayed more aggression and anti-social behaviours than those who never logged on.
Previous research has failed to link screen time and mental illnesses.
But experts from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, say the results of their new study hold true even when taking into account any previous mental health issues experienced by the kids.
Dr Runa Dutter, a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at King’s College London, hailed the study as a breakthrough.
Dr Dutter said: “A major strength is that researchers took into account mental health problems the young people already had.
“This largely overcomes the ‘what came first — mental health problems or high social media use?’ question.”
Lead researcher Kira Riehm was slightly more cautious, saying: “We cannot conclude that social media causes mental health problems but we do think less time on social media may be better for teens’ health.”
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
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Her team found that 97 per cent of the kids reported using at least one of the seven most popular social media platforms including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
But while a third of these spend 30 minutes or less a day on the sites, nearly one in ten — eight per cent — are hooked for six hours or more.
The research was published in the Jama Psychiatry journal.
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