Adolescents experiencing symptoms of ADHD may be more likely to use social media more often than their peers. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, children experiencing ADHD symptoms were up to 53% more likely to be “addicted” to social media websites than those without symptoms.
Researchers monitored 2,587 high school students in Los Angeles County between the ages of 15 and 16 over a two-year period. The students weren’t diagnosed with ADHD and showed no ADHD symptoms as of September 2014.
The teens in the study were asked to record how often they used digital media throughout the year for two years.
Participants used technology frequently and more than 50% reported they checked social media sites and texts. This may not be surprising considering Facebook alone has up to 1.97 active users every month worldwide.
More than 40% of participants said they frequently streamed videos and looked at pictures. Another 38% said they frequently downloaded or streamed music.
Participants reported their frequency of social media use by using three categories: no use, medium use, and high use. The students’ levels of multiple ADHD symptoms were monitored every six months.
Researchers in the study said students who had an ADHD diagnosis prior to the study were excluded purposefully to provide a “clean slate” to evaluate changes in ADHD symptoms in the participants.
Participants who use social media websites frequently were 53% more likely to experience ADHD symptoms, the researchers found. Participants who frequently streamed videos and pictures were also 45% more likely to report ADHD symptoms.
Yet, 4.6% of the 495 students who didn’t use digital media also experienced ADHD symptoms over the next two years and 9.5% of the 114 students who only used digital media frequently for seven different activities also developed symptoms of ADHD.
“It is worth noting that over 80% of students reported high-frequency use of digital media,” said Dr. Jessica Agnew-Blais of King’s College London, “and the vast majority of these students do not have elevated ADHD symptoms.”
Researchers involved in the study say participants may have developed ADHD symptoms due to digital media use. However, researchers also say it’s possible the participants in the study were underdiagnosed. California has one of the lowest rates of ADHD treatment in the country.
The cause of ADHD is still unknown. Yet, previous studies conducted by Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and Oulu University point to genetics and differences in brain structure.