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More Music, Less Reading in Kids With Depression

Study: Depressed Teens and Tweens Spend More Time Listening to Music, but Music Probably Isn't Causing the Depression

Media and Depression continued...

“We hypothesized that there would be an association between depression and music, but that there would also be one regarding television, and that they would be of about the same strength,” Primack says.

“We sort of thought to ourselves that when you have depression, your brain is not working properly. So it’s much harder to sit down to a book and have to use a lot of the frontal lobe of your brain to create the story and the characters in your head, whereas, it should be quite easy to flop down in front of a television and turn on whatever’s there,” he says.

For print readers, there was a clear positive association with depression. That is, the more a participant reported reading, the less likely they were to be depressed.

The group that reported the most reading, for example, had a 90% lower risk of being depressed than the group that reported reading the least.

“We don’t know which direction this goes, but it’s certainly possible that reading may be protective,” Primack says, “But it’s also possible that people who are emotionally healthy are able to focus and engage in active types of media experiences, like reading.”

The study is published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Depression in Teens

Primack says more research is needed to sort out why listening to music appears to be linked to depression.

For now, though, he says the value of the information may just be as a way to help spot kids who are having trouble.

Because depression in teens and tweens often has different symptoms than in adults, it can be more difficult to recognize.

Compared to adults, depressed teens are more likely to be irritable or angry, to complain of physical aches and pains like stomachaches or headaches, and to be extremely sensitive to criticism. Like adults, they may withdraw from people, but they are more likely to keep contact with at least one or two friends, though these contacts may suddenly come from a different social group.

“It may be valuable for people to help pick up cues for common behaviors like listening to music,” Primack says.

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