It is something we suspected for long, but studies are now conclusively proving the negatives of social media networks.

How much time do you spend on Facebook to see if you are getting likes for a photo you posted 2 hours ago? How many times a day do you compulsively open the Twitter app on your phone to see what is new in the world? Are you obsessed with trying to look better on a Snapchat?

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests those of us who are constantly tuned in one social media network or the other are 2.7 times more likely to suffer from depression than those of us who prefer the offline world a bit more.

The study considered the use of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn networks. Researchers analysed more than 1,700 people aged 19 to 32, and in that demographic, the researchers found that social media usage on an average was 61 minutes per day and the average number of visits to a social media site was 30 times in a week. More than a quarter of the respondents were identified with severe depression.

“Because social media has become such an integrated component of human interaction, it is important for clinicians interacting with young adults to recognise the balance to be struck in encouraging potential positive use, while redirecting from problematic use,” said senior author Brian A. Primack, director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, in the research paper.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time that studies have linked health problems with excessive exposure to social media. A 2013 research by the University of Michigan had suggested that Facebook usage actively “undermines” the well-being in young adults, irrespective of gender. In 2009, a Stony Brook University research concluded that excessive Facebook use makes teenage girls depressed.

“Our hope is that continued research will allow such efforts to be refined so that they better reach those in need,” says Primack, who also is assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences and professor of medicine, in the research paper. “All social media exposures are not the same. Future studies should examine whether there may be different risks for depression depending on whether the social media interactions people have tended to be more active versus passive or whether they tend to be more confrontational versus supportive. This would help us develop more fine-grained recommendations around social media use.”

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