Using multiple social media platforms has a dramatic link with depression and anxiety even taking into account the time users spend on social media, a study has shown.

The new study, published in Computers in Human Behaviour, found those who reported using seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than their peers who use zero to two – and the scientists concluded it may be worth doctors asking how many platforms depressed or anxious patients use.

Model acting depressed
(Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Using a nationally-representative sample of 1,787 young US adults from the ages of 19-32 researchers form the University of Pittsburgh measured depression and anxiety symptoms using a scientifically established system – the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS).

Meanwhile, the number of social media platforms from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and LinkedIn the participants used were also recorded.

The researchers also assessed the total time participants spent on social media (TSSM) and took this as well as eight other factors into account to focus on the issue of using multiple outlets. Other factors included gender, relationship status and household income.

Facebook logo in eye
(Yui Mok/PA)

The scientists found those who used the most platforms were 3.1 times more likely to suffer higher levels of depression and 3.3 times the odds of having anxiety symptoms than those using zero to two platforms.

“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,” concluded the authors.

Man looks depressed (acted)
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“Understanding the way people are using multiple social media platforms and their experiences within those platforms—as well as the specific type of depression and anxiety that social media users experience—are critical next steps,” said co-author Doctor Cesar Escobar-Viera in a news release form the University.

“Ultimately, we want this research to help in designing and implementing educational public health interventions that are as personalized as possible.”

The research paper can be found here.