It may be a moot point whether we understand more about how depression changes so many lives or how social media is, knowingly or unknowingly, changing our world.
Nevertheless, the two issues come together in a new study from Trinity College Dublin and Lancaster University. It suggests that tech giants Google and Apple could do an awful lot more to help protect vulnerable children who might be susceptible to depression from accessing unsuitable, potentially dangerous, sites.
This conclusion was reached after academics found that two of the 29 most popular apps used by young people researching “depression” share negative emotional content.
They also say there is an unfortunate mismatch between safeguards designed to target violent video games, and the need to regulate some health-related apps.
It is a cause for even greater concern that researchers found that the science underpinning many mental health apps is often incomplete or questionable. Though most apps reviewed claimed to be led by evidence-based treatments, only two provide direct peer-reviewed references. Others, wisely, concede that they are not replacements for clinical treatments. However, these caveats were often obscure.
Depression has been a fact of life for millions of people for millenia but social media is a new force in our world, one that, as this study shows, must be used with care and perspective.