Social Media Could Trigger Secondary Trauma, Depression During Pandemic

October 12, 2020 12:36:50

Social media was a game-changer when it first came onto the scene. Sites like Facebook and Twitter allowed people to share and connect like they never had, and for a while, no one noticed just how harmful social media could potentially be. But a few years into the social media craze we now know that while it has its benefits, social media can have quite a negative effect on mental health, resulting in anything from depression and anxiety to cyber-bullying and feelings of inadequacy.

According to researchers at Penn State and Jinan University, social media has also caused adverse effects in some individuals during the pandemic. The researchers say that excessive use of social media for updates on the coronavirus pandemic could trigger secondary trauma and depression. “We found that social media use was rewarding up to a point, as it provided informational, emotional and peer support related to COVID-19 health topics,” says Bu Zhong, associate professor of journalism, Penn State.

“However, excessive use of social media led to mental health issues. The results imply that taking a social media break may promote well-being during the pandemic, which is crucial to mitigating mental health harm inflicted by the pandemic,” he says. Zhong describes secondary trauma as behaviors and emotions resulting from knowledge about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other.

The researchers surveyed 320 participants living in urban districts of Wuhan, China, where the virus was first discovered. In February 2020, they gave the participants an online survey, asking how they accessed and shared health information with family members, friends, and colleagues on social media, specifically on WeChat, the most popular social media mobile app in China. The researchers used an instrument created to measure Facebook addiction to assess the participants’ use of WeChat.

The participants were surveyed using a 5-point Likert-type scale, with the survey assessing their views of WeChat in providing them with informational, emotional, and peer support as well as health behavior changes as a result of social media. More than half of those surveyed reported some level of depression, with nearly 20% of them suffering moderate to severe depression. Additionally, 80% of respondents who reported secondary trauma had a low level of trauma while 13% reported moderate trauma and 7% reported high levels of secondary trauma.

“We found that Wuhan residents obtained tremendous informational and peer support but slightly less emotional support when they accessed and shared health information about COVID on WeChat,” Zhong says. “Our results show that social media usage was related to both depression and secondary trauma during the early part of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. The findings suggest that taking a social media break from time to time may help improve people’s mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the technology of today is beneficial to medical development, especially when being utilized by companies like Predictive Oncology (NASDAQ: POAI), a precision medicine company that applies data and artificial intelligence (“AI”) to personalized medicine and drug discovery, the rest us of should take a step away from technology from time to time. Moderation is key to enjoying the benefits of modern technology without giving any possible drawbacks chance to manifest.

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