More media exposure during teen years linked to higher depression likelihood during young adulthood

More media exposure during teen years linked to higher depression likelihood during young adulthood

A new study has found that the more a teenager is exposed to television and other electronic media the higher are his/her chances of developing depression symptoms in young adulthood - this is especially the case for young men, says a study published in Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA/Archives journal.

The authors explain that depression is the leading cause of non-fatal disability worldwide. It tends to start during adolescence or young adulthood. The authors write "The development of depression in adolescence may be understood as a biopsychosocial, multifactorial process influenced by risk and protective factors including temperament, genetic heritability, parenting style, cognitive vulnerability, stressors (e.g., trauma exposure or poverty) and interpersonal relationships." Exposure to media is another possible influence, given that teenagers are exposed to an average of 8.5 hours of electronic media per day.

Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ed.M., M.S., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and team looked t data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to work out how much electronic media 4,142 teenagers were exposed to - none of them were depressed at the beginning of the study in 1995. They were asked how many hours they had spent watching TV or videos, playing computer games or listening to the radio. The survey was carried out before DVDs and the internet became commonly used. Feedback indicated the teenagers were exposed to 5.68 hours of media each day, including 2.3 hours of television, 0.62 hours of videocassettes, 0.41 hours of computer games and 2.34 hours of radio.

The participants were screened seven years later when they had an average age of 21.8 years. 308 (7.4%) f them had developed symptoms consistent with depression.

The authors wrote "In the fully adjusted models, participants had significantly greater odds of developing depression by follow-up for each hour of daily television viewed. In addition, those reporting higher total media exposure had significantly greater odds of developing depression for each additional hour of daily use." Young men were more likely to develop symptoms of depression than young women, given the same amount of media exposure, the authors added.

The authors explain that media exposure may well influence the development of depressive symptoms through many different mechanisms. Time spend engaging with electronic media might replace time that could have been spent on social, intellectual or sporting activities - experiences that may protect against depression. Being exposed to media at night might disrupt sleep, which is crucial for normal cognitive and emotional development.

It is also possible that messages transmitted through media may reinforce aggression and other risky behaviors, interfere with identity development or inspire fear and anxiety.

"Psychiatrists, pediatricians, family physicians, internists and other health care providers who work with adolescents may find it useful to ask their patients about television and other media exposure. When high amounts of television or total exposure are present, a broader assessment of the adolescent's psychosocial functioning may be appropriate, including screening for current depressive symptoms and for the presence of additional risk factors. If no other immediate intervention is indicated, encouraging patients to participate in activities that promote a sense of mastery and social connection may promote the development of protective factors against depression," the authors wrote.

"Association Between Media Use in Adolescence and Depression in Young Adulthood - A Longitudinal Study"

Brian A. Primack, MD, EdM, MS; Brandi Swanier, BA; Anna M. Georgiopoulos, MD; Stephanie R. Land, PhD; Michael J. Fine, MD, MSc

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(2):181-188.

Major Depression Among Teens In The U.S.: The Startling Increase | TIME (Video Medical And Professional 2020).

Section Issues On Medicine: Psychiatry