A study of American college goers, conducted around the time of Facebook’s staggered rollout in US campuses between 2004 and 2006 (it was thrown open to the general public in 2006) shows what’s been widely apprehended for years – regular use of social media has a pronounced negative effect on mental health.
The forthcoming paper in the American Economic Review, based on biannual mental health surveys done across US campuses of 4.3 lakh respondents in that period, correlated to the introduction of Facebook in each campus. It found a 9% increase in depression and 12% increase in anxiety disorders over the pre-FB period mean, which researchers said was due to Facebook increasing the ability of students to do unfavourable social comparisons. More worryingly, it noted a 23% increase in students reporting academic impairment as a result of mental health decline.
Scoping out the research for current times, researchers also attributed 24% of the jump in depression rates in the US over the past two decades to Facebook use. The US CDC had found that relatively stable suicide rates among 10-24 year-olds between 2000 and 2007 had shot up 57% between 2007 and 2017. India also tells a similar story. There were 43,000 victims of suicide in the sub-30 age group in 1991, which rose marginally to 45,000 in 2006, but then saw a near 50% rise to 67,000 in 2021. This is the time social media usage spread rapidly.
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