Oxford study finds few links between technology and mental health issues

Social medi apps on a phone

A new study published by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) has found that there are few links between technology use in adolescents and poorer mental health. The study used 430,561 participants from the U.S. and UK with data being collected since 1991.

The researchers tried to find links between social media use and depression, emotional problems, and conduct problems. They also looked at how television affected mental health and sought to find whether digital device use increased the likelihood of suicides. The researchers found there to be very little correlation between social media use and mental health issues.

The researchers found that social media use and television viewing were less strongly associated with depression but found that social media did seem to slightly increase emotional problems. With regards to conduct problems and suicidality, the researchers didn’t find that engagement with technology had any effect.

The OII said that the results do not support the notions people worry about today that technology may be adversely affecting adolescents, however, the researchers have stressed the need for more credible and transparent collaborations between technology companies and independent scientists to ensure researchers have access to more accurate data. They said that a lack of detailed data meant they couldn’t conclusively determine technologies’ associations with mental health.

Commenting on the study, Professor Andy Przybylski, Director of Research, Oxford Internet Institute and senior author of the study, said:

“As more data accumulates on adolescents’ use of emerging technologies, our knowledge of them and their effects on mental health will become more precise. So it’s too soon to draw firm conclusions about the increasing, or declining, associations between social media and adolescent mental health, and it is certainly way too soon to be making policy or regulation on this basis.

We need more transparent and credible collaborations between scientists and technology companies to unlock the answers. The data exists within the tech industry, scientists just need to be able to access it for neutral and independent investigation.”

You can find the study over on the Clinical Psychological Science journal website. It is open access so there’s no need to pay to read the study.

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