"If there is, we need to know how this is happening and how to prevent depression in young people", said Dr. Michael Bloomfield, an excellence fellow and head of the Translational Psychiatry Research Group and consultant psychiatrist at University College London in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study.
"The algorithmic features of television viewing and, in particular, social media, create and maintain a feedback loop by suggesting similar content to users based on their previous search and selection behaviour".
Boers is a post-doctoral researcher in the department of psychiatry at the university.
On average, researchers found teens spend six to seven hours a day looking at a digital screen. "We know that numerous personality traits associated with substance abuse could also be associated with depression and therefore these adolescents are likely to have a higher risk of mental health problems than the general population of adolescents".
Changes in adolescent social media use and television use predict increases in symptoms of depression. "Thus, the more one's depressive state influences his or her viewing choices, the more similar content is being suggested and provided, and the more likely one will be continuously exposed to such content, thereby maintaining and enhancing depression".
A recent study examining the relationship between mental health issues and high levels of screen time revealed that social media usage is linked to depression in teenagers, according to a report by CBC News.
Boers and colleagues found that for television, increased use was associated with a decline in the severity of depression symptoms in a between-person analysis (-0.22, 95% CI -0.40 to -0.05), but in a within-person analysis, increasing television use by one hour within a given year was associated with a 0.18-unit increase (95% CI 0.09-0.27) in depressive symptoms.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on teen depression.
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Ever since the world was plunged into the digital age, much has been made about the effect of "screen time" on the mental health of teenagers.
The study was carried out over four years by researchers at the Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal.
Additionally, while the study distinguished between various types of screen time, more research is needed to distinguish between various platforms or genres within those types, such as Snapchat versus Instagram for social media, or sitcoms versus reality shows for television viewing.
"It exposes young people to images that promote upward social comparison and makes them feel bad about themselves", Conrod said.
The findings were published July 15 in JAMA Pediatrics.
There was also a connection found between television watching and depressive feelings.
The study also suggests that most gamers are not socially isolated, with over 70% of them playing with other people either online or in person.
"Early identification of vulnerability to depression gives clinicians and parents a large window of time in which to intervene", Conrod said.