Nav: Home

Scientists find link between digital media use and depression in Chinese adolescents

May 09, 2019

London, May 9, 2019 - Adolescents in China who either spend more time on screen activities, such as watching TV or surfing the Web, or less time on non-screen activities, including physical activity, are at risk and significantly more likely to experience depression, according to a new study in the journal Heliyon, published by Elsevier. A greater association with depression in girls over boys was also found as the use of new digital media grows across the country.

In the United States, the Internet has become an integral part of life with social media representing a sizable portion of that usage. More than two billion people globally used digital media in 2016, and this is predicted to rise to nearly three billion by 2020. The number of digital media users in China has also been increasing rapidly. Earlier studies have reported that conduct problems, depressive symptoms, and suicide in nearly all developed countries have escalated since the Second World War.

"Digital media, as compared to more traditional media such as television, have profoundly changed the modern life of the average Chinese citizen," explained lead investigator Jie Zhang, PhD, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, China, and State University of New York Buffalo State, Buffalo, NY, USA. "They can now shop, navigate to travel, browse information, consume various entertainment media, and communicate with one another in an unprecedented manner, and adolescents also spend more and more time using digital media.

"However, access to these digital media may have detrimental outcomes, such as distraction from work or school, the spread of false information about individuals, online bullying, and reduced face-to-face social interactions, all of which can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicidality."

In China, adolescents are facing serious psychological difficulties. Recent evidence shows that the prevalence of depressive symptoms among Chinese students ranges from 11.7 percent to 22.9 percent, representing a significant public health concern, given the established link between depression and suicide in China.

Investigators designed a cross-sectional study to evaluate the association between new digital media and depressive symptoms in a representative Chinese adolescent sample. They surveyed more than 16,000 Chinese adolescents 12-to-18-years of age using data from the 2013-2014 China Education Panel Survey (CEPS). The first goal was to investigate factors that might impact depression, specifically comparing traditional screen time (watching TV); digital media screen time (online); non-screen time (sports, exercise, reading, and cultural activities); and experiencing depressive symptoms among adolescents. The study also examined the potential influence of gender, grade level in school, hometown, number of children in the family, and socioeconomic status on depressive symptoms. The second goal was to compare associations across different economic groups.

The researchers found that greater media consumption screen time is related to depression among Chinese adolescents, although online screen time is a stronger predictor. The present study also showed that digital media had a greater impact on depression among girls, which is consistent with evidence of greater depression and suicide among women compared to men in China.

The less economically developed western area of China showed the strongest link between digital media and depression, although this association was still significant in all economic regions. The influence of traditional screen time was more inconsistent within the group studied, with TV time predicting depression only in the eastern area and lax parental TV control buffering depression only in the eastern and western areas. Further, the present study highlights that non-screen time can decrease depression, although the exact nature and strength of this relationship varies across economic regions.

"The new digital media, if not appropriately managed, creates public health hazards in adolescents," commented Dr. Zhang. "There are numerous and significant differences in economy, culture, and education between China and western countries, as well as clear differences in adolescent depression and suicide behavior. Therefore, it may not be appropriate to make inferences about how digital media impacts negative outcomes among Chinese adolescents from findings that utilize samples from western countries.

"However, our study can be used to warn Chinese adolescents to reduce the time they devote to digital media and advise them to spend more time on non-screen activities, such as outdoor activities and face to face communication. We hope these results will help reduce depressive symptoms among Chinese adolescents."
-end-
Notes for editors

The article is "Digital Media and Depressive Symptoms among Chinese Adolescents: A Cross-Sectional Study," by Jie Zhang, PhD, Hang Hu, MA, Dwight Hennessy, PhD, Sibo Zhao, PhD, and Yiwen Zhang, MA ( https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01554). The article appears in Heliyon volume 5, issue 5 (May 2019), published by Elsevier.

This study was supported by a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant.

This study is published open access and can be downloaded by following the DOI link above.

In online coverage of this paper, please mention the journal Heliyon and link to the paper at https://www.heliyon.com/article/e01554.

About Heliyon

Heliyon is an open access journal from Elsevier that publishes robust research across all disciplines. The journal's team of experts ensures that each paper meeting their rigorous criteria is published quickly and distributed widely. Led by Lead Editor, Paige Shaklee, the editorial team consists of over 1,000 active researchers who review papers on their merit, validity, and technical and ethical soundness. All published papers are immediately and permanently available on both Heliyon.com and ScienceDirect.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we're committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries. http://www.elsevier.com

Media contact

Victoria Howard
Elsevier
+1 215 239 3589
v.howard@elsevier.com

Elsevier

Related Depression Articles:

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.
Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.
Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.
CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
Post-natal depression in dads linked to depression in their teenage daughters
Fathers as well as mothers can experience post-natal depression -- and it is linked to emotional problems for their teenage daughters, new research has found.
Being overweight likely to cause depression, even without health complications
A largescale genomic analysis has found the strongest evidence yet that being overweight causes depression, even in the absence of other health problems.
Don't let depression keep you from exercising
Exercise may be just as crucial to a depression patient's good health as finding an effective antidepressant.
Having an abortion does not lead to depression
Having an abortion does not increase a woman's risk for depression, according to a new University of Maryland School of Public Health-led study of nearly 400,000 women.
More Depression News and Depression Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.