From the Journals

Social media use may promote depression in pregnancy



More time spent on social media spent in ways defined as problematic was significantly associated with increased depressive symptoms during pregnancy, based on data from more than 600 individuals.

Depressive symptoms among pregnant women have risen in recent years, but the potential impact of social media use on depression in pregnancy has not been well studied, wrote Lotte Muskens, a PhD candidate at Tilburg (the Netherlands) University and colleagues.

In a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the researchers surveyed 697 pregnant women aged 19-42 years who were part of a larger longitudinal prospective study (the Brabant Study) in the Netherlands. The mean age of the participants was 31 years; 96% were employed, 99% had a partner, and 71% had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Depressive symptoms were assessed at 12, 20, and 28 weeks of pregnancy using the Dutch version of the 10-item Edinburgh Depression Scale (EDS).


The researchers categorized the participants into trajectories of depressive symptoms during pregnancy, with 489 identified as low stable (mean EDS scores 2.8-3.0), 183 as intermediate stable (mean EDS scores 8.4-8.8), and 25 as high stable (mean EDS scores 15.1-16.9).

Problematic SMU was identified using the six-item Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale (BSMAS) at 12 weeks of pregnancy; scores ranged from 6 to 30, with higher scores representing more problematic SMU.

The mean BSMAS scores were 9.0, 10.7, and 12.6 for the low-stable, intermediate-stable, and high-stable depression groups, respectively.

Data on social media use (SMU) were collected at 12 weeks of pregnancy. Social media was defined as common platforms including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

SMU was defined in terms of intensity, measured by time and frequency. Time was measured by asking participants to list how many hours per day they used social media on a scale of 1 (no use of social media) to 9 (7 or more hours per day). Frequency was measured by asking how often participants visited the various social media platforms, on a scale of 1 (no use of social media) to 7 (five or more visits per day). Overall, the participants averaged 1.6 hours per day and 19.5 visits per week on SMU.

Increased time and frequency of SMU was significantly associated with increased odds of being in the high-stable group, compared with the low-stable group in an adjusted analysis (odds ratios, 1.51 and 1.05, respectively; P = .017 and P = .019, respectively).

In addition, problematic SMU (as defined by higher BSMAS scores) remained significantly associated with increased odds of belonging to the intermediate-stable or high-stable classes in an adjusted analysis (odds ratios, 1.17 and 1.31; P < .001 for both).

“While our results suggest that SMU can have negative consequences for pregnant women’s mental wellbeing, it is important to note that SMU during pregnancy may also be helpful for some pregnant women,” as many women, especially first-time mothers, find information and support through social media, the researchers wrote in their discussion.

The findings were limited by several factors, including the variation in group sizes for depressive symptoms, reliance on self-reports, and the collection of data during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have affected the results, the researchers noted.

However, the results were strengthened by the large sample size and longitudinal design that allowed measurement of trajectories. More research is needed to determine causal relationships, but the data indicate an association between higher levels of depression during pregnancy and more intense and problematic SMU use, and health care providers should discuss SMU in addition to other risk factors for depression in pregnant women, the researchers concluded.

The study received no outside funding. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

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