A new study published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour has found a link between a person's use of social media and their risk of anxiety and depression—but researchers aren't ready to condemn Instagram just yet. Instead, they're suggesting it's worth looking further into how a shitload of different accounts spread across the internet could affect a person.
People who told researchers that they used seven to 11 social media platforms had three times the risk of suffering from depression and anxiety when compared to their peers who use just two platforms—or none at all.
"These associations are strong enough that it may be valuable for clinicians to ask individuals with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and to counsel regarding this potential contributing factor," the report concluded.
The study comes from the University of Pittsburgh's Centre for Research on Media, Technology and Health, where researchers surveyed 1,787 American adults aged 19 through 32.
Again, the report doesn't lend any credence to the whole "log off, drink some concrete, and harden up" school of thought yet, because it doesn't answer the question of correlation versus causation. Remember, a correlation between two variables doesn't mean that one is responsible for the other.
In this case, we're still left wondering if extensive use of social media actually gives you depression and anxiety, because that really would be a case of causation—and an interesting one at that. But if the study just found that people with depression and anxiety are more likely to reach out to different communities online, and nurture those relationships across different platforms, we only have correlation.
Even the researchers themselves aren't sure. "While we can't tell from this study whether depressed and anxious people seek out multiple platforms or whether something about using multiple platforms can lead to depression and anxiety," confesses lead author Brian A. Primack, "in either case the results are potentially valuable."