Teens using social media too much 'risk mental health issues'
Teenagers who spend more than three hours a day on social media may be at higher risk of mental health problems, a large study has found.
Data from 6,595 youngsters aged 12 to 15 in the US found those who used social media more heavily were more likely to report issues such as depression, anxiety and loneliness, as well as aggression and antisocial behaviour, than teenagers who did not use social media.
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The findings held true even when researchers took into account mental health problems experienced by any young person in the year before they were asked about social media use.
The research, from a team at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, was published in the journal 'JAMA Psychiatry'.
Some previous studies have suggested no link between poorer mental health and screen time.
Dr Rina Dutta, senior clinical lecturer at King's College London (KCL) and consultant psychiatrist, said: "A major strength of this study compared to previous research is that the researchers took into account mental health problems the young people already had a year prior to the measurement of social media use.
"This largely overcomes the 'what came first - mental health problem or high social media use?' question."
However, she said more research was needed on the issue, including at what points in the day people used social media.
The study looked at two types of behaviours that can indicate mental health problems: internalising and externalising.
Internalising can involve social withdrawal or difficulty coping with anxiety or depression.
Externalising can include aggression or disobeying instructions.
The study found that teenagers who spent three to six hours on social media a day had a 60pc increased risk of reporting internalising problems, and 78pc if they spent more than six hours.
The use of social media for three hours or more was associated with more than double the risk of reporting both internalising and externalising problems for the person involved.