Work & Wellbeing Mental Health Social Media

Excessive use of Facebook could trigger depression, study finds


By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

August 16, 2021 | 4 min read

People who spend most of their time on Facebook are at higher risk of suffering from depression.


There is a strong relationship between Facebook use and signs of depression

This is according to a study by Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, which also found the more people use Facebook, the higher the levels of envy, which led to feelings of depression.

“Social rank theory says we engage in social comparison, which is something we cannot escape because it’s how we make sense of our own social identity. But this process of comparison can lead to us feeling down when we see someone having more resources than we do,” said associate professor Edson C Tandoc Jr, from the NTU Centre for Information Integrity and the Internet.

In response to the survey, a Facebook spokesperson told The Drum that mental health and wellbeing matter to the platform.

“We want to enable people to build stronger communities and more meaningful connections. We partner with the world’s leading experts in mental health and wellbeing to understand the impact of our products so that we can minimize harm and maximize the power of social media as a force for good,” the spokesperson said.

Facebook previously announced several initiatives across its apps with mental health experts to make it easier for people to get the support they need for themselves and others who might be struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

These include comprehensive global mental health guides, resources and actionable tips developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), and region-specific guides and resources addressing additional mental health topics including stress, anxiety, depression, emotional crisis, grief and loss.

The platform also formed a partnership with the Mental Health Coalition offering local guides and access to additional support from their member organizations in the US.

What did the study find?

  • People with signs of depression linked to Facebook spend even more time on social networking sites, leading to a vicious circle of depression.

  • It found no significant difference between passive Facebook use and active posting on the platform among Singapore residents.

  • While younger and more educated participants in Singapore reported higher levels of Facebook use and depression, the impact of age and education levels was marginal.

  • Participants in the study aged 18-65 spent an average of about two and a half hours on Facebook daily.

  • When they indicated they were feeling envious, there was a stronger relationship between Facebook use and signs of depression. Participants were then likely to use the app even more, instead of stopping.

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