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Social Media Interventions Prove Effective in Alleviating Depression Symptoms: Study

Recent findings from a study conducted by researchers at UCL suggest that targeted interventions for problematic social media use can play a significant role in alleviating depression symptoms. The study, which was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, highlights the potential of interventions aimed at individuals whose mental well-being is compromised due to excessive social media usage. Problematic use is characterized by a person’s preoccupation with social media to the detriment of important responsibilities and commitments in other aspects of their life. This behaviour can lead to negative consequences such as sadness, anxiety, tension, and loneliness, all of which are associated with depression.

Researchers have responded to these concerns by developing and evaluating interventions that address the impact of social media on mental health. These interventions encompass strategies like limiting or abstaining from social media usage, as well as therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The study examined 23 studies conducted between 2004 and 2022, involving participants from diverse geographical backgrounds. The results indicated that social media use interventions contributed to enhanced mental well-being in 39 percent of the studies. Notably, the interventions showed particular efficacy in mitigating depression, with 70 percent of the studies reporting a significant reduction in depressive symptoms.

Among the interventions, those based on therapy demonstrated the highest effectiveness, yielding improved mental well-being in 83 percent of the studies. In comparison, limiting social media use resulted in improvement in 20 percent of the studies, while complete abstinence led to an improvement in 25 percent of the cases. Dr. Ruth Plackett, the lead author from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, highlighted the importance of a therapy-oriented approach, emphasizing the need to reflect on one’s interactions with social media and manage behaviours for enhanced mental health.

Dr. Patricia Schartau, another study author and GP from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, underlined the significance of primary care physicians proactively addressing social media use when treating patients with anxiety and low mood. The study’s findings gain significance in a world where over 4.59 billion individuals were estimated to be using some form of social media in 2022. Although these platforms have revolutionized communication, relationships, and self-perception, concerns about their impact on mental health, especially among young people, have surfaced.

The researchers hope their study will guide policymakers and clinicians in effectively managing problematic social media usage, although further research is required to determine which individuals would benefit most from such interventions.

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