A groundbreaking study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has refuted the widely held belief that increased use of social media leads to higher rates of depression among young people. In the study, 800 children were followed for six years to examine the potential relationship between social media use and the development of symptoms of mental illness.
Contrary to popular belief, the study found no clear evidence of a link between increased social media use and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Even more surprisingly, those with more symptoms of anxiety and depression did not change their social media habits over time. These results were obtained regardless of gender and whether the children were active participants in social media or just browsing other people’s posts.
The results of this study are consistent with other recent studies that have had mixed results regarding the effects of social media on mental health. While some studies suggest that social media can promote mental wellbeing, others have found negative effects. However, as NTNU professor Silje Steinsbeck notes, many of these correlations are weak and do not provide a full understanding of the issue.
One of the key strengths of the Trondheim Early Secure Study is its focus on long-term data collection and in-depth interviews to assess symptoms of mental illness. This approach allowed the researchers to take a closer look at the relationship between social media use and mental health. Previous work by the same research team has shown that about five percent of young people in Norway suffer from depression, with the rate even lower among children. In addition, one in ten children between the ages of 4 and 14 meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder.
The topic of teenagers’ use of social media is a major concern for parents and professionals. However, this study is designed to bring additional knowledge about how social media actually affects young people’s development and functioning in society. Steinsbeck and her colleagues hope to find out who is particularly vulnerable to the potential negative effects of social media and who can actually benefit from it. They also seek to understand whether the way in which social media is used plays a significant role.
While this study provides valuable insights, it is important to note that it is limited to a specific population and cannot be fully generalized to other contexts. Nevertheless, it challenges the prevailing view of social media and mental health, forcing a rethinking of assumptions about the impact of technology on young people’s well-being.