Depression can be a common problem for teens and teens, and while many treatments exist, they don’t always work for everyone. A new study found that feeling more informed about their health can help teens take better care of themselves and cause less depressive symptoms.
The researchers also found that confidence played a factor in whether health information improved depression. The more teens trust their parents or teachers as a credible source of health information, the more likely they are to experience less depression.
In addition, although teens reported relying on traditional media (such as television, radio, and newspapers) rather than online content, only social media content or websites resulted in real changes. of behavior.
Bu Zhong, an associate professor of communications at Penn State, said the findings were recently published in the journal Child: care, health and development – suggest that while teens are likely to be taught skepticism about online content, websites and social media can powerfully affect teens ’health.
“The kids weren’t being misleading on purpose when they said they didn’t trust the information online, even though that information was ultimately related to lower depression,” Zhang said. “Parents and teachers probably told them to be wary of information that was online or on social media. But our research showed that online content has a strong impact on their health behavior and their behavior. depression mitigation strategies, which are not found in traditional content media “.
According to researchers, depression is one of the most common mental disorders among teenagers in China. In the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that 13.3% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17 in 2017 had at least one major depressive episode.
In addition, previous work has shown that depression increases the risk of adolescents experiencing lower school performance and social withdrawal, along with an increased risk of self-harm and suicidal ideation.
This study was really inspired by my students, after several of them came to me really stressed. I know first hand how widespread depression can be among students, so I was interested in what kind of health information they shared with young people and whether it can help them cope with depression. ”
Bu Zhong, Associate Professor of Communications, Penn State
The researchers recruited 310 teens from primary, middle and high schools in northern China for the study. Participants responded with information about health information, such as seminars, classes, brochures, and other media, that they recently consumed, including its quality and whether the source and information were credible.
They also answered questions about their health, including their symptoms of depression and whether consuming health information led to changes in their behavior, such as whether they felt it helped prevent disease and increased their likelihood. to discuss and share health information with friends.
The researchers found that older participants were more likely to become depressed. In addition, participants with higher GPAs were also more likely to have depression. Zhang said this could be because the longer students were in school and the better their grades, the more likely they were to feel more pressure to succeed.
However, the more frequently participants used social media, the more likely they were to change their health behaviors, leading to less depression.
Finally, adolescents felt more depressed when their mothers had a higher level of education, but less depressed when fathers had a higher level of education. Zhong described this finding as the “mother tiger effect.”
“These findings do not mean that a mother’s education causes her children’s depression, but one interpretation might be that it might not be a good idea for mothers to dominate their children’s school life and push them too hard,” he said. dir Zhong. “Children can do much better in school and, more importantly, are less likely to experience stress or other depressive symptoms. Parents can learn from each other by educating their teenage children.”
Overall, the researchers said the results suggest that health information can be used strategically to help alleviate depression in teens and teens.
“Our research is interested in providing long-term health outcomes, not just temporary relief,” Zhong said. “So we’re looking for anything, in addition to medication, in addition to therapy, that can help people with depression, and that offers another possibility. You may not be able to eliminate all the stressors that cause adolescent depression, but you may it could equip adolescents with better skills to gather health information to help fight depression. “
Zhong, B, & Chen, J. (2020) Health information helps mitigate adolescent depression: a multivariate analysis of the links between health information use and depression control. Child: care, health and development. doi.org/10.1111/cch.12831.