Altered markers of stress in depressed adolescents after acute social media use

Reem M.A. Shafi, Paul A. Nakonezny, Keith A. Miller, Jinal Desai, Ammar G. Almorsy, Anna N. Ligezka, Brooke A. Morath, Magdalena Romanowicz, Paul E. Croarkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Social media use (SMU) is an inherent element in the daily life and neurodevelopment of adolescents, but broad concerns exist regarding the untoward effects of social media on adolescents. We conducted a prospective, cross-sectional study that sought to examine the acute effects of SMU on clinical measures and biomarkers of stress in healthy and depressed adolescents. After at least 24 h of abstinence from social media, depressed adolescents (n = 30) and healthy control adolescents (n = 30) underwent baseline clinical assessment of their prior SMU, depressive symptom severity, self-esteem, and exposure to bullying. Participants provided salivary samples that were analyzed for α-amylase and cortisol levels. After 20 min of unsupervised SMU, saliva analyses and clinical assessments were repeated. After 20 min of SMU, salivary cortisol and α-amylase levels were significantly higher in adolescents with depression but not in healthy control adolescents. Furthermore, small but statistically significant changes in depressive symptom severity occurred in all participants. These changes in depressive symptoms were not clinically meaningful. SMU did not significantly change self-esteem measures among participants. Adolescents with depression appeared to have more physiological reactivity after SMU compared with healthy adolescents. Further research should characterize SMU as a clinical dimension and risk factor among adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-156
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Cortisol
  • Depression
  • Social media
  • Stress markers
  • α-Amylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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