A new study from the U.K. examined the link between social media use and depression-type symptoms in almost 11,000 14-year-olds. Researchers found that girls were two times more likely to be depressed than boys, primarily because of cyberbullying and harassment issues.

Why are the results of this study so surprising?

Almost 40 percent of the girls and 20 percent of the 14-year-old boys in this study were using social media for more than three hours per day. Both the girls and boys in this study reported higher rates of depression, online harassment, cyberbullying, and poor sleep because of their social media use.

Girls were also more likely to have issues with self-esteem, body image and their appearance as compared to boys. The more social media use, the stronger the link to depression-type symptoms.

How are social media, poor sleep and depression related?

Social media use at night can disrupt the natural circadian rhythm and melatonin levels which are part of the sleep cycle. Kids may sleep with their phones next to them at night. This can wake them up throughout the night with texts and messages coming in, make them feel like they are missing out if they go to bed.

Or kids may sleep poorly because they are worried or anxious about online harassment or cyberbullying. Disruptions in sleep, both quantity and quality, can also make kids more prone to depression-type symptoms. Kids brains are still developing at this age.

Lack of sleep and depression in youth can cause long-term issues which can carry over into adulthood.

Why are girls more prone to body image, self-esteem and depression symptoms than boys?

Social media can put unrealistic expectations on kids about what they should look like, how they should dress or act. Girls are more likely to have unrealistic expectations about what they “should” look like and can be judged on appearances more than males.

With online harassment and cyberbullying on the rise, kids are more commonly being teased, ridiculed or even bullied. This can lead to issues with poor body image, being unhappy with their body weight, and lower self-esteem. This “pathway” may cause kids to become depressed.

– Dr. Comilla Sasson, 9NEWS Denver

Read more: Social Media, Teens and the Direct Link to Depression

Image by Gregory Pappas from Unsplash