Context: Although certain media exposures have been linked to the presence of psychiatric conditions, few studies have investigated the association between media exposure and depression.
Objective: To assess the longitudinal association between media exposure in adolescence and depression in young adulthood in a nationally representative sample.
Design: Longitudinal cohort study.
Setting and participants: We used the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to investigate the relationship between electronic media exposure in 4142 adolescents who were not depressed at baseline and subsequent development of depression after 7 years of follow-up. Main Outcome Measure Depression at follow-up assessed using the 9-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale.
Results: Of the 4142 participants (47.5% female and 67.0% white) who were not depressed at baseline and who underwent follow-up assessment, 308 (7.4%) reported symptoms consistent with depression at follow-up. Controlling for all covariates including baseline Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale score, those reporting more television use had significantly greater odds of developing depression (odds ratio [95% confidence interval], 1.08 [1.01-1.16]) for each additional hour of daily television use. In addition, those reporting more total media exposure had significantly greater odds of developing depression (1.05 [1.0004-1.10]) for each additional hour of daily use. We did not find a consistent relationship between development of depressive symptoms and exposure to videocassettes, computer games, or radio. Compared with young men, young women were less likely to develop depression given the same total media exposure (odds ratio for interaction term, 0.93 [0.88-0.99]).
Conclusion: Television exposure and total media exposure in adolescence are associated with increased odds of depressive symptoms in young adulthood, especially in young men.