Researchers from Penn State and Jinan University said constantly looking at news about the pandemic would worsen depression. People have been urged to take a break from using social media during the Covid-19 pandemic to avoid slumping into a depression.
Researchers from America's Penn State University and Jinan University in China said excessively looking on social media for up-to-date health information amid the virus outbreak is linked to an increase in depression and secondary trauma.
The study focused on 320 participants in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak first began in December last year, and they were given an online survey to complete which quizzed them on how they used and shared health information on social media sites such as WeChat, China's most popular app.
The team also measured participants' use of WeChat to see if they were addicted to using the site and assessed their health behaviour changes as a result of using social media.
Participants were asked to rate statements such as, "The health information on WeChat has changed many of my health behaviours, such as but not limited to wearing face masks, using sanitiser, or washing hands," and "I had disturbing dreams about the coronavirus epidemic."
More than half of the respondents reported some level of depression, with nearly 20 per cent suffering from severe mental health issues.
And 80 per cent of participants reported a low level of trauma, compared to seven per cent who said they suffered from high levels of trauma.
None of the participants reported having any depressive or traumatic disorders before the survey took place.
Study leader Bu Zhong said that while social media was a good thing a majority of the time, it also led to mental health issues if used excessively, especially during a global pandemic.
They urged people to take a break from using apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, in an effort to protect mental wellbeing.
"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," Zhong explained. "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."