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Bullying on Facebook can trigger depression in teenagers


New York, Sep 9 : Young adults who face negative experiences on Facebook like bullying, meanness, misunderstandings or unwanted contacts are at significantly higher risk of developing depression, say researchers from Brown University.

Over 80 per cent of 264 participants reported having at least one negative Facebook experience (NFE) since they started using the social networking website.

Among the participants, 63 percent said they had four or more such experiences during their lifetimes.

"It is important that people take interactions on social media seriously and don't think of it as somehow less impactful just because it is a virtual experience as opposed to an in-person experience," said lead author Samantha Rosenthal, epidemiology research associate in Brown University's school of public health. 

Nearly 24 percent of the participants reported moderate-to-severe levels of depressive symptoms.

The team found that among people who experienced any NFEs, the overall risk of depressive symptoms was about 3.2 times greater than among those who had not.

Bullying or meanness was associated with a 3.5 times elevated risk, while unwanted contact had a milder association of about 2.5 times.

"The more severe a person perceived incidents to be, the more likely they were to be showing signs of depression," Rosenthal said.

According to the authors, it may be prudent for teenagers to recognise that such negative experiences could lead to prolonged symptoms of depression and it might be worthwhile to take a break from Facebook. 

Another strategy may be to unfriend people who are becoming sources of such experiences.

"The study, therefore, suggests that negative experiences on Facebook can likely lead to the increased levels of depressive symptoms in teenagers," noted Stephen Buka, professor of epidemiology in the study forthcoming in the Journal of Adolescent Health