An interesting article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders by Merrill, Cao and Primack5 2022 sought to understand this.
Whilst longitudinal studies demonstrate associations between social media use and the development of depression, it is not clear whether these associations differ amongst people with various personality characteristics.
Data was obtained from a national sample of 978 individuals aged 18-30.
Measures used included the PHQ-9 depression score, the 10-item Big Five Inventory assessing personality, and self-reported use of the top 10 social media platforms.
Logistic progression determined associations between each personality characteristic (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism), social media use and development of depression over six months.
In multivariable analyses adjusted for all covariates, compared to people with low agreeableness, those with high agreeableness had 49% lower odds for developing depression. Compared to people with low neuroticism, those with high neuroticism had more than double the odds for developing depression.
For each personality characteristic, increased social media use was significantly associated with developing depression. Interaction terms showed that associations between social media use and developing depression did not vary according to any of the personality characteristics.
The fact that agreeableness and neuroticism were associated with different risks for developing depression may help practitioners target high-risk populations. Because social media use was strongly associated with the development of depression for all personality characteristics, it may be useful for interventions to target reduction of social media use overall regardless of personality type.
The final conclusions were neuroticism was associated with a higher risk of developing depression in six months.
Agreeableness was associated with a lower risk of developing depression in six months.
Social media was associated with developing depression in all personality traits.
Interventions should target those with high neuroticism and low agreeableness.
Interventions should target reducing social media regardless of personality type.
There were no associations between other personality traits, openness, conscientiousness and extraversion with the development of depression.
Neuroticism is a strong predictor for depression and being associated with decreased life satisfaction and decreased positive affect.
Agreeable individuals tend to be more pro-social, to have increased empathy and concern for others.
Thus, it could be that these individuals sustain more positive relationships over time to contribute to a lower risk of depression.
Dr Paul Ettlinger
BM, DRCOG, FRCGP, FRIPH, DOccMed