Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok create an escapist persona for many of us staged by influencers, experts and self help gurus. It is the first thing that we check in the morning and the last thing we glance at before dropping off to sleep. Research has shown that we spend more time on social media sites than actually making true human connections.
However, having an illness isolates you like nothing else in life and their is some solace to be found from spending time on these sites. It is a new way of living, and less expensive than a shrink. Depression is endemic, a first world problem but also a third world’s reality. Everyone needs a connection and if social media can provide this, why not?
Can social media therefore have its uses in chronic health conditions? This is a topic rarely studied by researchers, although the websites themselves have their own algorithms to study this at a click of a button. This information, however is not freely available to the public.
In a small study conducted in Iran the investigators looked at the link between social media use and depression. Using those who spent <1 h/day for <5 times/month as controls, depression levels were found to be better in those who used social media than those who didn’t. There was no association with the number of social media sites visited, type or duration.
The authors state: “One of the useful aspects of technology in MS patients has been the use of social networks, for a better support in health-related coping, social interactions, and patient informing processes“.
Below is a letter to the editor criticising this article, which highlights the importance of a good review. But, the only comment of import in my opinion is the one about performing an ANOVA vs univariate analysis that was performed in the article. The rest is simply information that can be obtained from the authors.Panda-Sharawat2021_Article_DepressionInIndividualsWithMul
The impact of social media use on depression in multiple sclerosis patients
Acta Neurologica Belgica volume 120, pages1405–1409(2020)
Social media is a powerful tool in providing information and support for minority groups such as patients with chronic diseases. We aimed to assess the link between using online social media and depression in a sample population of Iranian Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients. In this cross-sectional study, a number of MS patients between 18–55 years were recruited. The Persian-language version of the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II-Persian) was used to screen MS patients for depression. We selected a cut-off point of 16 to identify depressed MS patients, who answered the self-administered questionnaire designed by the authors (the validity and reliability was confirmed before). Patients, whose interaction with social networks and communication tools was limited to < 1 h/day for < 5 times/month, were allocated as controls. A two-sided p < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. We compared the depression score between patients who used internet and social media (16.38 ± 8.35) with those who did not (25 ± 13.98). We found out there was a significant difference (p = 0.046). However, there were no significant differences between the type (r = 0.098, p = 0.513) and duration (r = − 0.102, p = 0.564) of social media with depression score. Also, based on a cutoff of 3 number of social media there was no significant difference in the status of depression among patients (p = 0.921). Based on the experience of patients, it is helpful to implement a source using online social media to facilitate patients’ access to rehabilitation support and establish support groups with standard supervised information delivery.