Using Media Makes Teens Depressed
In the past month, there has been a collection of studies done from various associations into the effect that media has on the behavior and mood of teens. More specifically, they seem to look into how using these various types of media may make a person more or less depressed, and in turn, suicidal in some cases. It begs the question: does our overuse of the media say something about our mood, or possibly change our mood for the worse? While we can’t ever say for sure, no matter how many of these studies we do, and since these studies are done on teenagers, it’s unknown if these types of events happen to people of all ages, it’s still something to question.
Earlier this month, a study out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine was released, led by one Dr. Brian Primack. The purpose of this study was to find out what types of media each of the one hundred children and teens were partaking in, and to find out what kind of mood they were in at the time. Each person was called once a week and asked about which types of media they had used and how they were feeling over the course of eight weeks. The study was primarily conducted to find out what effect or association each type of media had on MDD, or major depressive disorder.
The results of this study were interesting, to say the least. Teens who listened to at least four hours of music per day, which is an estimated total, were more at risk of having MDD than teens who either listened to less music each week, or teens who using other types of media, including television and movies, video games, Internet and print media. Conversely, teens that read print media were 50% less at risk of having a depressive attitude. However, according to this study, only around 0.2% of the teens within the study actually read any type of print media, including books, magazines and newspapers. In a statement by Dr. Primack, he does say, “At this point, it is not clear whether depressed people begin to listen to more music to escape, or whether listening to large amounts of music can lead to depression, or both. Either way, these findings may help clinicians and parents recognize links between media and depression.”
There are unfortunately many factors about this study that are not addressed, as with many of these general studies. While they do explain that researchers controlled for age, sex and ethnicity, none of the current home situations are taken into account. In most cases, a teen is spurred to do certain things because of the situations they are in, whether they be from their home life, their school life or some other circumstance. This could easily fall under the “depressed people begin to listen to more music to escape” category, but if this is related to their home life, and more specifically their parents, there isn’t much that we can do about it. While it is key for parents to watch for patterns that could end poorly, some parents care much less, and these types of situations are induced because of it.
While this study covered mostly all types of media, another study was released in this past month which focused on teens and the use of video games, and how it affects them, which somewhat contradicts the previous research. According to an article in The Official Journal of the American Association of Suicidology by Dr. Erick Messias of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Department of Psychiatry, teenagers who spent more than five hours per day playing video games or using the Internet were more likely to experience sadness, or be potentially suicidal. On the other hand, teens who spent two hours or less doing said activities proved that these teens were less likely to be sad or suicidal than those who spent no time doing either activity. Unlike the previous study though, this research was using results from the Centers for Disease Control‘s 2007 and 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys.
The question, however, is what connects video games to thoughts of suicide or sadness? To some, playing video games is a way to get their mind off of the sadness that they may have at the time, so this leads one to believe that there are other circumstances that are not explained outright that can affect what the link between people and video games is. In most cases, it is not the fault of the media itself that causes someone to be depressed, but rather an event or situation in their lives that attribute to them wanting to use said media in order to not be as depressed, even though they still are at the time.
Much of this sounds very similar to another article posted here on the Weasel Report entitled “Your Mental Health Check“, which was another study conducted that had to do with an addiction to video games, and how it can lead to depression or anxiety in children if they play it them too much, however in similar fashion, they miss out on finding out many important details regarding the child’s life outside of the video games and their mood. All of these studies lead to the ultimate question asking what we are to do with these findings. In most cases, especially when the subject in question is in their teen years, it is up to the parents to monitor their children and their use of these types of media. But at the same time, if the parent could care less about what their teen does, then no amount of research will change the facts that are present.
What do you think about these findings? Do you listen to a lot of music, and do you feel that it is because you are depressed? Or does listening to music make you depressed? What are your thoughts on video games causing teens to be more suicidal? Join the discussion in the comments.
Check back in the near future as Dr. Brian Primack from the University of Pittsburgh will be joining us to discuss his side of the story! We thank him greatly for donating some of his time to speak with us on this subject!