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WOTOI: Social media and Depression. Is there a link?

WOTOI (Whats Our Take On It) is a layperson’s plain English interpretation of medical journals found online.

This one is going to be unique because I look at TWO journals and give my thoughts and opinions. The journals are:

  1. Online and Social Networking Interventions for the Treatment of
    Depression in Young People:A Systematic Review, 2014, by Rice SM, Goodall J, and others.
  2. Association Between Social Media Use and Depression Among U.S. Young Adults, 2016, by Liu yi Lin, Jaime E. Sidani, and others.

Two articles. Two different hypotheses. But for sake of clarity essentially: Does Social Media Positively or Negatively Affect Young Adults in Terms of Depression.

Facebook Suicide Reporting
Facebook now has tools to flag a friend as possibly suicidal thereby allowing appropriate support staff and resources to be made available. Photo: TechCrunch  @meganrosedickey

Before I dig into the results…I want to say I felt that each had its good points but were quite limited by its scope. Let me explain:

For instance, Article 1 only looked at Facebook as the ONLY social media platform available, which back in 2014, definitely wasn’t the case. There was and still is Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, among others.

I’ll digress for a moment here: If you consider how you typically use Facebook vs Instagram vs Snapchat…..the thinking would be:

  • Facebook-use to keep up with birthdays and anniversaries and nearby events;
  • Instagram-foodporn, aspirational lifestyles of the rich and famous, motivational infographics;
  • Pinterest-hunt for the next home DIY project; aspiring trophy homes; and
  • Snapchat: share daily musings, bloopers, and more intimate moments.

Clearly the study is limited to only Facebook where people might see a ton of baby anniversary photos and possibly feel glum that they’re still single (just one possibility) VS say browsing foodporn on Insta and salivating for their ossu bucco at Jamie Oliver. Different platform, different feelings!

Article 2 did better to cover all social platforms by asking people: Q: how many hours do you spend on social media each week. Again though I think there’s room to drill down further into the data! They looked at: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn,
Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, andReddit. But wait! what about Whatsapp, or Weibo, or Messenger? Social media surely covers that too? It has photos, it has messages, it involves people. Seriously it is a disservice to do a study and exclude the second most used platform in the world! Look below!

Top-Social-Network-sites-by-number-of-active-users-2017
Source: Smart Insights, http://bit.ly/2lT7NAg

 

So back to the study results Article 1 says social media is an “OK” tool for psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and mental health workers because it is a very accessible way for young adults to find and get help (rather than sitting in a cold waiting room I presume!). Because the of the scattered data that they found on social media, it was hard for them to say definitely whether it is positive or negative at detecting depression and/or treating depression. More work needed!

Article 2 was ehh-I really didn’t like their method of surveying people’s use of social media and surveying scores of depression and anxiety, then simply marrying the two together. If I did a survey of monkeys crossing the road VS monkeys crossing the road and they can see a zoo keeper with a bunch of bananas on the opposite side…I too would say that bananas give monkeys navigational intelligence for oncoming traffic =p Don’t get started on the road toll.

What also annoys me is they say women are more likely to be depressed from social media usage. Especially the younger they are. Firstly, it’s a fact that women are more likely than men to have depression, regardless of cause-They also tend to seek out help earlier than men on the whole-men are too proud oftentimes. Secondly, it doesn’t take a genius to figure than teenage girls are the top users of social media. Any parent can attest to this.

The saving grace for the authors is that they admit a lot of their shortcomings. For instance: that most of their participants are on social media; that different posts on Facebook elicit different emotions, and that it can be a chicken or the egg situation with social media-depression.

“However, one reason for our finding may be that our sample had so few individuals who did not use social media (only 3.2% of the sample).”

One great take-away I thought is that they did mention that active participation on social e.g. 1 on 1 conversation was better than passive consumption e.g. scrolling through the news feed. Reasoning was that if you keep comparing your lifestyle to that of the rich and famous, you’d probably feel bummed.

WOTOI? I think Facebook could probably give us a better answer, considering the richness of their database and new features such as Reactions (Haha, Wow, Sad, Angry, Love) on top of the LIKE button. Science being science, more “clinical” trials need to be done on a more in-depth level and should include chat programs like Whatsapp, WeChat, Skype etc…

As a pharmacist I would recommended cultivating deeper your relationships with your friends and family. That way when life throws you a curveball, you’re less likely to stumble and if you did, you’d bounce back faster with those support networks. Chat away!

Take care. xoxo.

Vien LeTran-Pharmacist

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The Blues-Depression

If you missed it…our previous blog was on Autism in Young Children. Read the story at: Brainy Kids

Also as part of Brain Week we’re going to explore mental health. Specifically, Depression. 

depressed young lonely woman girl, sitting on the floor alone

Everyday life is a frenetic rush for most of us readers. Getting errands done, picking up the kids, checking off our to-dos. Seldom does one have time to slow down for any extended period-heck just the thought of it may even be so abnormal/weird-I know I think that! It’s a fact though that half the people with depression are without employment and so life in the slow lane is a place one can definitely go to-and it’s not what you think.

Waking up and just not feeling it. Not knowing what to do with your life so you go back to sleep. Feeling like you have no friends and noone to speak to-even just to hang out is a mission. Your drive and zest for life just ain’t there and so following through with tasks is a big ask. Compulsive drinking/gambling, reckless driving can sometimes be conduits of escape though shortlived.

Do you know someone like this? As cheesy as it sounds but there are many support lines one can call such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, as well as chat rooms such as HeadSpace, etc… The sooner contact is made, the better the outcomes as depression can spiral out other aspects of life: relationships, job commitments, and physical health. Think about it: you don’t feel like going out with friends-next time they don’t invite you out; you are grouchy to your partner-all because you haven’t been sleeping enough; or you oversleep and keep missing your work appointments-causing you to lose your job; etc..

Personally I know of someone who withdrew completely from our social circle. Before he was the chirpy guy, loud and socially attuned. Now quite stunted in his communication. What happened? He had led himself to believe that he wasn’t enough for any girl-he was single. With the low self-esteem, he turned to alcohol. From there he began a downward spiral-he let go of work commitments as well as TAFE. He’s undergoing treatment now but it’s a long time coming.

Another close female friend went through a bad break up and her ex-boyfriend became quite physically abusive. She’s a young girl in her twenties and in the prime of her life with plenty of friends. After the breakup she felt she could no longer trust her friends. Her social life began a downward spiral and she admitted herself to hospital. Luckily she got treatment early on but the after effects, anxiety, and general caution with peers is always there.

As you can see depression can stem from life events-breakup, divorce, loss. Some of the risk factors that can add to the stressful event include:

  • living in isolation
  • family history of depression
  • financial strain
  • chronic pain
  • few social connections

If you know someone going through a tough time, these are some of the things YOU can do to make a positive impact:

  • Reach out and listen. Start the conversation. Meet for lunch.
  • Encourage them to get moving (I always like to say motion is emotion)
  • Help them reconnect with nature/volunteer together/share in a hobby you once enjoyed.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on that person! Chances are they just don’t know how to reconnect. Importantly, don’t feel like you need to fix the problem or provide solutions. A listening ear can be huge solace for those who are lonely.

Handy Contacts:

R U OK?

Beyond Blue

LifeLine

HeadSpace

 

Vien LeTran, Pharmacist