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Facebook Depression! Is it Real or Just a Cliche?

Submitted by on May 31, 2012 – 10:35 AM

The present decade has witnessed an exponential group in the number of social media users. Facebook alone has an estimated over 500 million users. With these staggering figures, it becomes clear right at the onset that the medical consequences (if any) of social media are likely to effect an exceedingly large population.  Since the boom of social networking websites is less than a decade old, relatively little is known about the health implications. Recently, however, several studies have been published highlighting the concern.

Depression is the most common psychiatric diagnosis. Besides the morbidity of the condition, it is the leading cause of suicide.  In last year alone, 5 studies indicating a plausible association between facebook use and depression have been published in the PubMed database alone, necessitating the need of a thorough investigation to explore the association. In fact, researchers have now proposed a new term “Facebook depression” defined as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.”

The factors that are more likely to result in depression among the users are amount of time spent, online reinforcement from the depressed peers and online response from friends to a status update disclosing depressive symptom. It is well known that the adolescent population suffering from depression is at a risk of social isolation.

Another concern is that those who are depressed are likely to explore online ways to relieve the depression. Given the vast amount of information available online, the fear is that they may turn to content which is not peer reviewed and hence resort to substance abuse, aggressive and self destructing behavior.

On the other hand, given the large number of users and the frequency of depression, there’s an opening to promote mental health by promoting the knowledge about psychiatric diagnosis and reducing the stigma of these mental conditions, choice is all ours!

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