Teen Media Consumption Associated With Depression Symptoms

Media Impact on Teenager Depression
Media Impact on Teenager Depression

Media Exposure and Depression

A report in the February issue of “Archives of General Psychiatry” states that exposure to more television and media during teenage adolescent years seems to be associated with the development of depression symptoms in young adulthood. This is especially the case with young men.

“The development of depression in adolescence may be understood as a biopsychosocial, multifactorial process influenced by risk and protective factors including temperament, genetic heritability, parenting style, cognitive vulnerability, stressors (e.g., trauma exposure or poverty) and interpersonal relationships,”

Depression is said to begin during adolescence impacted by media exposure and influence. Plenty of statistic show that teens watch about 3 hours of TV a day, and are exposed to nearly 9 hours of some type of media consumption. Have you seen a teen without an ipod constantly stuck in their ears?

The Media Study

Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ed.M., M.S., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine together with his colleagues used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health to help determine exposure to electronic media among 4,142 adolescents who were not depressed at the beginning of the study in 1995.

The teenagers were asked how much time they spent watching TV or listening to music, and playing video games. The teenagers averaged over five and half hours of media consumption per day with the largest contributor being 2.3 hours of television. This is in 1995 where internet was not wide spread and the video game industry was far smaller than it is today!

The same teenagers were screened in 2002 for symptoms of depression and 7.4% showed depression related symptoms, a significantly higher amount than average. Each hour of daily TV consumed showed correlation with higher odds of developing depression. This was found to be even stronger among men.

How does Media Link to Depression?

The author explains that the development of depression symptoms due to media consumption could be due to many reasons. The individual spends less time with other people, not engaging in social and intellectual activities. Someone consuming media alone is isolated and develops less relationships. Late night media consumption disrupts good sleeping patterns which has been found to be important for emotional and cognitive development. Also depending on the media programs, violent and exaggerated messages can encourage risky behaviors, raise aggression or create anxiety.

“Psychiatrists, pediatricians, family physicians, internists and other health care providers who work with adolescents may find it useful to ask their patients about television and other media exposure… When high amounts of television or total exposure are present, a broader assessment of the adolescent’s psychosocial functioning may be appropriate, including screening for current depressive symptoms and for the presence of additional risk factors. If no other immediate intervention is indicated, encouraging patients to participate in activities that promote a sense of mastery and social connection may promote the development of protective factors against depression.”

Media and our Perception of Reality & Life

Also as noted in other articles here in Clean Cut Media, the type of culture depicted in TV programs and movies molds our perception of what is the norm and what is the good life. We watch shows where the average guy somehow wins the pretty girl. We watch groups of friends sleeping with each other without much consequences in the overall friendships. We watch perfect romances working out by the end of the movie. We see celebrities looking glamorous always looking like they are having the time of their lives. We see characters living incredible and exciting lives. Stories written by professionals to maximize interest and excitement but often times unrealistic to how life truly plays out. Yet as we soak in again and again from different shows and scenarios it molds our perception of how life should be. Any differences in reality to what we perceive to how life is for everyone else could cause self-pity and anxiety in the pursuit of such things.

Is it really that surprising that as we consume more media, the more a person could become unhappy with their own life? Makes sense to me.

  • Does this make sense to you or do you differ?
  • What kind of affect does media have on our perception of life?
  • Do you think your perception of how life works was impacted by the media you consumed at a young age?

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  1. I am very grateful for this kind of posting. It amazes me how much people are blinded to the effects of media. When I think about my teenage sisters, it really does worry me when I think of what kinds of messages and ideas are being fed into their minds. When I talk to them about the content of certain shows, it is clear that they are subconsciously accepting all that is being portrayed. I miss the times when you would be able to watch TV as a family and not have to flip the channel because some questionable content appeared. This is why I strongly believe that media intake has to be carefully monitored so we don’t expose our younger ones to ideas and behaviors that are not representative of true life. Thank you again for the posting.

  2. ive been trying to say that for years and im not quite 20 yet…i believe media has impacted the minds of the children in negative ways…a few years i was struggling with depression, i was a cutter and suicidal, but i was doing what i had learned from television…i was forced to turn off the tv for almost a year because my college had no cable and i came out of my depressive state…i now watch tv a little but usually not for long and if i do its more than likely some sort of race…i do not think all media is bad, i listen to my ipod or radio constantly, but i only listen to what had a positive and uplifting message…i dont like that stuff talking about sleeping with all the guys/girls you meet…it gets in the head and eventually is acted out and messes up everyones lives not just your own…the world would be in a better condition if the messages were more pure, more positive…

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