YouTube overuse may lead to loneliness & depression - study

Source: Sputniknews  17.5.2023


YouTube's popularity as a video streaming platform has transformed the way people consume online content since its launch in 2005. The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) conducted a study indicating that frequent and habitual YouTube users experience higher levels of loneliness, anxiety and depression.


New findings by researchers from Griffith University have revealed that excessive YouTube use can have a negative impact on mental health.


Dr. Luke Balcombe and Emeritus Professor Diego De Leo from Griffith University's School of Applied Psychology and AISRAP initiated a study to explore the positive and negative effects of YouTube on mental health. The research determined individuals under 29 years of age and those who regularly watch content about other people's lives are particularly susceptible to negative effects.


Balcombe highlights that the development of parasocial relationships between content creators and viewers can be a cause for concern. While some creators may foster healthy relationships with their followers, these online connections can exacerbate social anxiety and hinder face-to-face interactions crucial for personal development.


The study recommends individuals limit their time on YouTube and seek alternative forms of social interaction to combat loneliness and promote positive mental health. Parents are particularly concerned about the amount of time their children spend on YouTube, as it is challenging to constantly monitor their activities on the platform.


Researchers also raised concerns about YouTube's algorithms, which can inadvertently recommend suicide-related content to users, potentially leading them down a disturbing "rabbit hole." Although users can report such content, it often goes unreported due to the vast amount of content being uploaded.


YouTube's algorithms struggle to effectively detect and remove harmful videos within a short timeframe. When potentially harmful content is identified, YouTube generates a warning and asks users if they want to proceed with watching.


To address these issues, Balcombe suggested implementing monitoring and intervention measures using artificial intelligence (AI), particularly for vulnerable children and adolescents engaging in high-frequency YouTube use. He further proposed an independent algorithmic recommendation system, separate from YouTube, that guides users toward verified positive mental health content or promotions.


Balcombe emphasized the need for verified mental health tools and interventions that combine AI-based machine learning, risk modeling, and expert human decisions. Such solutions could effectively address the growing demand for digital mental health support.


The study's findings, published in the journal Informatics, shed light on the potential negative consequences of excessive YouTube use on mental health and emphasize the importance of promoting healthier online habits and developing reliable mental health resources.