Updated 10 April 2017

Instagram may lead to teen depression

A study found that while Instagram may lead to closer bonds with friends, it may also have adverse effects.


With almost three million South Africans who use the photo-sharing network Instagram, one expects us to be more connected to each other lives’ than ever before.

While this might be the case for some, research out of Belgium suggests that the use of Instagram may also lead to depression.

In the same vein, previous research found that constantly taking Instagram photos of your food can negatively affect your enjoyment of eating it. 

Effect on friendship

Researchers tracked Belgian teens' Instagram use for six months and linked frequent use to greater depression.

But Instagram also made the teens feel closer to friends, which in turn was related to lower levels of depression, the study found.

"This age group may be particularly at risk for the impact of Instagram, given the increasing popularity of Instagram in adolescence and given the increase of depressive symptoms during this stage of life," said study author Eline Frison. She's a doctoral student at the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research at the University of Leuven.

The study is scheduled for presentation in May at the International Communication Association's annual meeting in San Diego.

While other researchers have studied the impact of Facebook on teens, Frison said her study is the first to examine how teens' Instagram use over a period of time affects friendships.

"If using Instagram stimulates adolescents' closeness to friends, it is beneficial in the long run, but if Instagram is not capable of that stimulation, it is harmful in the long run," Frison said in an association news release.

Read more:

How Instagram can ruin your dinner

How to support someone with depression

Are selfies destroying your relationship?


Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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