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Gender Depression Due To Over Usage Of Internet And Social Media
  • 6

  • Course Code: LBR7337
  • University: Birmingham City University
  • Country: United Kingdom


While social media is associated with unparallelled connections that build and foster better connectivity with other, it also brings with it, several disadvantages. This research study is based on identifying the impact of overusing social media or internet on the depression in individuals. The current study goes one step ahead and aligns it with the impact on different genders. This study includes systematic literature review of the qualitative studies.

A total of (n=16) qualitative studies is used in this paper for performing systematic literature review. The research identify that men are found more stressed in terms of facing social stigma or presenting self as stronger, masculine, and emotionally strong person. On the other hand, women are found depressive symptoms while overconsuming social media and feeling body shaming while comparing with the others. Men are also found as facing difficulty in accessing mental health services and fostering communication with other about their mental health.

Chapter 1: Introduction 

1.1 Overview

This is the first chapter of the study which aims to discuss the selected topic, the rationale for the selected topic, and the research question as well as objectives. Further, this introduction chapter also discusses the rationale behind the selected methodology to perform the study. Section 1.2 of the dissertation will include the rationale for selecting the research topic whereas 1.3 will describe the research question for the study. Further, section 1.4 will discuss the need to select a systematic literature review for the study. Also, section 1.5 will discuss the aim and objectives of the study followed by the dissertation structure in section 1.6 

1.2 Rational for the research topic

In the last few years, the use of online platforms (i.e., social media, websites, e-news channels) has gained high popularity. Access to these digital platforms has certainly enhanced communication and contact in society. It helped people in connecting However, the high use of digital media platforms has also enhanced the concern about the mental health impact of such a high intake of online content.

Many of the studies showed worried aspect for the high prevalence of depression cases in those who are more obsessed with online platforms (Laor, 2022). High social media use such as spending time on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter is linked with raised symptoms of depression for different reasons (Ivie et al., 2020). First of all, these social media tools reflect the best moments of someone’s life.

Constant exposure to this kind of content can cause comparison feelings in individuals as well as feelings of inadequacy. This kind of situation can also lead to fear of missing out (FOMO) which ultimately leads to a decline in self-esteem as well as impacting overall mental health. 

Similarly, the addictive character of social media, which is characterized by constant reading and an expectation of reinforcement through comments and likes, can lead to a loop of seeking validation from others for self-worth. This reliance on external validation can have a negative impact on mental health, developing a sense of inadequacy when expectations are not met.

Furthermore, despite the illusion of contact, prolonged social media usage can lead to increasing isolation. More time spent online generally implies less time spent engaging in real-life social connections, which are critical for psychological health and emotional stability.  

Further, many of the studies also reflect that blue light emission from screens disrupts sleep patterns that can lead to depressive symptoms. Social media cannot be considered as negative inherently however, the excessive use and activities performed on it can influence the social dynamic as well as individual perception which can harm the mental health.

Also, some of the social networking sites activities may cause low self-esteem and it may vary for children, males, and females (Pantic, 2014). The severeness of this aspect may vary differently for male, female, transgender, non-binary, etc. 

Depression is a common mental health problem around the world, and its link with internet-based resources as a potential cause or impairing factor has received a lot of attention in recent years (Bernard, Sabariego, and Cieza, 2019). Depression shows differently in men and women, with diverse socioeconomic, biological, and psychological variables contributing to these differences.

According to Mammoser (2018), depression impacts more women than men worldwide, and new research suggests that online sources may have an important role in worsening depressed symptoms, particularly in specific gender groups. Along with this, many studies reflect that high use of social media, overloaded information, cyberbullying, as well as portraying self in the content available online may have a significant impact on mental health which may lead to high stress, depression, as well as anxiety among individuals (Matthes, et al., 2020).

Depression among adolescents is a global public health concern that has a large socioeconomic impact. The study of the relationship between time spent on social media (TSSM) and depression may provide insight into the prevention and treatment of depression in adolescents. Even when good literature information is available on the internet regarding how social media affects mental health, there is a lack of studies which discuss how this impact differs for genders or if there is a similar kind of impact for all.

Isolation and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) are two prominent terms used in the wider setting of social media (Hunt et al. 2018). Constantly scrolling over social media feeds might generate worry about losing out on events shared by others. The fear of being left out or not meeting societal norms enforced by the internet can lead to stress and worry, which can exacerbate depressive symptoms. In addition, there is a strong link between a lack of sleep or an interrupted sleep schedule and depression.

Frequent social media use, particularly before bedtime, may disrupt sleep habits. Woods and Scott (2016), also mentioned in their study that blue light coming from phone screens impacts the natural sleep cycle of individuals and may also impact sleep disorders. 

Further, poor sleep quality is commonly associated with an increased risk of depression (Okun et al., 2018). It is vital to encourage the responsible and limited use of social media. The significance of studying depression in different genders using online sources stems from the ever-changing digital ecology and its potential implications for mental health inequality.

According to a study, women use social networking sites more regularly than men and are more likely to have depressive symptoms, establishing a potential connection between the two (Seabrook et al., 2016). Furthermore, high reliance or time spent on digital platforms has raised concerns about their impact on psychological well-being, which has been recognized as a severe health issue.  Spending more time on social media significantly affects connectivity, lack of information, and entertainment.

However, more time spent on social media also causes psychological challenges. 

One major source of concern is the growing popularity of social media, where people engage themselves in carefully picked content which often distorts reality. The pressure to conform to idealized ideals, along with the platforms' constant comparison, can lead to emotions of inadequacy, causing anxiety and depression.  Furthermore, the intense involvement in online communication might hinder genuine face-to-face relationships, resulting in social isolation and loneliness.

Tambalis et al. (2018) mentioned in their study that high screen time not only affects the sleep pattern but also hampers the physical activity of the individual. Further, a high volume of online available data can also cause cognitive fatigue and information overload. Such cumulative effect highlights the need for public health intervention as well as awareness campaigns which can promote digital well-being (Hale et al., 2018).

Strategies that focus on digital, balance relationships with technology and adequate internet use practice are important to reduce the challenges associated with high internet use for mental health. The potential impact of these sources on aggravating depression necessitates attention in order to avoid negative implications on persons' well-being, especially given the gender differences in susceptibility.

Further, there is also a financial burden linked with untreated or undiagnosed depression as well as with the higher prevalence of depression cases caused by online sources (Laor, 2022). It also impacts in the form of high healthcare utilization, loss of productivity, and constrained quality of life or well-being which combinedly highlights the need to evaluate the issue and frame suitable strategies.

Despite the widespread availability of social media networks and their rapid incorporation into practically every aspect of our lives, there is an apparent lack of concrete data on how they influence us personally: our habits, social interactions, and mental health. 

1.3 Research Question 

Considering the available literature information and topic of the study, three research questions are being prepared which are mentioned below: -  

1.    What is the impact of excessive internet use on the mental health situation of different genders?
2.    How different genders are attracted to social networking sites and the extent to which they are affected? 
3.    What is the link between depression and internet overuse?

Discussing the justification for the selected questions or what these questions aim to identify in the systematic literature review, these questions will describe the link between depression, gender, and overuse of social networking sites. All three questions combinedly will help in identifying the most appropriate link between these three aspects. 

1.4 Justification for selecting systematic review as a methodology to identify the required information 

The systematic literature review is being selected as the methodology for this study. Implementing this methodology will help in examining the issue more comprehensively and evaluating different scholarly articles, qualitative studies, as well as empirical research which promote the relationship between the overuse of online resources (social networking, websites, etc.) and severeness of depression among different genders (Mengist, et al., 2019).

The systematic review approach offers a comprehensive and transparent study, allowing for the detection of patterns, contradictions, and developing themes across multiple studies. It also helps in lowering gender bias and lowering the gap in psychological intervention using predefined inclusion as well as exclusion criteria.

The goal of this strategy is to quickly review existing literature research published on the topic, highlight research gaps (Booth et al., 2021), and provide a better knowledge of how usage of diverse internet sources affects depression in genders. In addition, a systematic literature review method may support the creation of improved evidence-based interventions that can help manage or reduce the harmful impact of overusing online materials on depression for various gender demographics (Jahan et al., 2016).     

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1.5 Aim and Objectives


To evaluate the impact of overusing online content (internet) on depression among different genders. 


•    To evaluate the impact of excessive internet use on the mental health situation of different genders.
•    To understand how different genders are attracted to social networking sites and being affected by them.
•    To identify the link between depression and internet overuse. 

These objectives will provide significant insight into the overuse of the internet's impact on the mental health of different genders, the attraction factor for different genders, as well as the connection between internet overuse and depression. Combined this information access will help to meet the aim of the study. 

1.6 Dissertation Structure 

A systematic literature review is being performed in this study. Discussing the structure of the research, the first chapter of the research is the introduction which discusses the aim of the study, research questions on which aim and objectives are based, justification for the selected research method and justification for the selected subject area.

The second chapter of the study is the literature review which discusses about the existing literature information relevant to the topic. It will help in making a basis for the research.

Next, chapter 3 is a research methodology that will play an important role in clarifying different approaches adopted by current researchers in undertaking this study. It will also describe which database is used by the author and which search terms were being used. Further, the result table will be framed in the fourth chapter. This chapter will describe, display, synthesise and interpret the key findings.

Further, the discussion is the fifth chapter of the study which discusses about key findings, limitations, and future implications of the study. Conclusion is the last chapter of the study which provides a critical summary of key findings of the dissertation which align with the research questions. 

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Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Overview 

This is the second chapter of the research study which aims to identify the relevant information regarding “Depression in different genders due to the online sources- a public health issue.” Published works of literature which discuss about the relevant information linked with the objectives of the study will be evaluated and discussed in this chapter.

Section 2.2 will evaluate the literature information for the first objective which is identifying the role of online sources in affecting mental health situations in different gender.

Next, section 2.3 will evaluate how different genders are attracted to social networking sites and are affected.

Next, section 2.4 will discuss about the Link between depression and social media overuse. Further, section 2.5 will be the literature gap followed by section 2.6 in the conclusion.  

2.2 Impact of Social Media Platforms in affecting mental health Situations in different gender

There is a significant impact of social media on mental health which affects individuals based on different factors such as emotional intelligence, gender, and others. According to Lin et al. (2017), the Internet and social media have both positive as well negative impacts on the health of an individual. Understanding both the positive as well as negative sides is important for fostering healthy internet use.

It includes social media platforms, online interactions, and information consumption. It is important to understand how these platforms affect the individual while focusing on gender perspective as there is a lack of studies which discuss this aspect. First discussing about social media and gender disparities, people's interactions, communication, and perceptions of themselves and others have been revolutionized by social media platforms (Laor, 2022).

However, the effect of these platforms varies greatly depending on gender. Instagram, Facebook, PixelFed, any many other social media platforms now provide security features that allow users to control their usage. It may individuals to restrict their time limit for using the application. However, it is not highly efficient for underage individuals (both male and female).

Adults are more prone to use social media and a majority of the studies also highlight their results in the context of young adults. According to Laor (2022), social media provides unique access to resources, information and support networks which help an individual to learn, connect and find those communities which are similar to their interest.

By enhancing social contacts and minimizing isolation, social media platform develops a feeling of community and can improve mental well-being (Abi-Jaoude, Naylor, and Pignatiello, 2020). 

Social media overuse impact on women’s mental health

Further, discussing about the negative impacts, excess browsing, especially through social media, can harm mental health. It may cause a mentality of comparison with others’ uploading their quality content on social media, or feeling physically ashamed while comparing themselves with influencers on social media (Chae, 2018). In terms of teenagers, may feel more attracted to violent or some other inappropriate content that can affect their mental health (O’Reilly et al., 2018).

The curated form of content frequently causes comparisons with others and feelings of inadequacy, which contributes to stress and a lack of self-worth. Also, high exposure to laptop or mobile screens can disrupt sleep patterns and can also raise addictive behaviour, which negatively impacts overall mental health (Levenson et al., 2016). According to

Tiggemann and Anderberg (2020), women suffer distinct peer pressure on social media than males. Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, for example, can lead to problems with body image in women due to the availability of manipulated and idealized photographs that promote unrealistic beauty standards.

Primack et al. (2017) also discussed in their study that women who are constantly exposed to such content may develop feelings of insufficiency and low self-esteem.

There may be different stressful situations or pressures for men associated with internet-based content (Li et al., 2021). They may feel the stress of showing themselves more as traditional masculinity norm which centres around dominance, strength, emotional suppression, and others. It also causes difficulty in sharing vulnerability and seeking help for mental health issues while contributing to an enhanced rate of undiagnosed mental health situations such as depression (Liang et al., 2016).

Previous studies discovered that age had no effect, but gender did. Women were much more likely than males to develop mental health problems. According to studies, women seek more information about health-related material online than men when it pertains to mental health. Aalbers et al. (2019) also mentioned in their study that women may actively seek mental health resources, resulting in more informed judgments about obtaining treatment or support.

According to Hunt et al. (2018), women may experience more complexity of stalking, online harassment, cyberbullying, and others which may lead to their anxiety and stress. Such negative experiences may affect to more toxic environment, which not only affects their well-being but also leads to avoidance of online space.

According to Keles, et al., (2020), better considering this example, a young woman who frequently sees altered images of social influencers, models or celebrities may feel dissatisfaction regarding her own body or may feel low in self-esteem which enhances the change of suffering from depression or anxiety.

Further, discussing about information consumption and gendered mental health, The Internet provides access to a wealth of information, which may be both beneficial and detrimental to mental health (Castellacci, and Tveito, 2018), depending upon the content and how it is interpreted.

Approximately 3.48 billion people were using social media in the year 2019 which is almost a 9% growth than the previous year (Kim, 2017).  According to this study which discusses about the social media audience by January 2020, it is found that 38% of males are using Twitter but more than 60% of them are using Snapchat. On the other hand, females are more likely to use Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Social media overuse impact on men’s mental health

On the other hand, Men may engage in a variety of online activities, such as competitive or hostile interactions in multiplayer games or on social media platforms. These practices can produce anxiety and a sense of inadequacy, negatively influencing mental health (Vella et al., 2020). Men are found facing more challenges or social pressure to look strong, masculine, and emotionally strong which certainly causes challenges for those who are not.

Social media is full of idealized pictures of men and women (Fox, and Vendemia, 2016), and thus, it causes high social pressure on men to be like idealised men while having qualities of strength, resilience, independence, and others. Men also prefer to discuss less about their mental health considering the social stigma (Vogel et al., 2014).

Such social perception often fosters the aspect that it is not an adequate thing for men to have any kind of psychological weakness or suffer from any mental health issue. Also, it makes it challenging for men to feel hesitant and also difficult to access adequate mental health care (Latalova, Kamaradova, and Prasko, 2014).

Understanding this emotional difficulty can support better intervention for social norms, which undermine their perceived strength and ability. These significantly established cultural norms may prevent men from identifying their psychological needs, leading to misdiagnosis and untreated mental health illnesses.  

Fostering open communication, providing an atmosphere of security and ease for men, and modifying social norms so that men may express their emotions without fear of being judged are all key ways to promote mental health and well-being (Parent, Gobble, and Rochlen, 2019). This can also increase inadequate treatment situations which may cause different depression stages and also other health concerns that can lead to the gender gap in psychological health care. 

Impact of online gaming content on youth’s mental health 

According to McCrae, et al., (2017), social media has become a significant aspect of the lives of many individuals. Although social media has many great and pleasant aspects, it may also result in mental health issues. A man, who sees a competitive environment on his social media feed may feel stressed and frustrated.

Also, Guntuku et al. (2017) discussed in their study that taking part in aggressive action or violent gaming (mainly linked with fights and guns) is a concerning point considering the impact of these kinds of games on health behaviour.

Research suggests a link between the high use of these kinds of online games and the rise in aggressive and depressed behaviour of individuals (Makarova, and Makarova, 2019).

These games frequently involve repetitive simulated violence, which desensitizes people to violent behaviours and normalizes aggressive conduct. Participation in a virtual world where violence is embraced or applauded can cause the barriers between fiction and reality to blur, altering one's behaviours and temper.

According to Zhao, Huang, and Li (2022), exposure to aggressive game content regularly may desensitize people to the negative effects of aggressiveness, making violent thoughts and actions more easily accessible and acceptable.

This desensitization linked with the aggression raised during gaming can lead to severe behavioural change in individuals and hamper temperament levels of individuals which also affects their interaction with society (González-Bueso et al., 2018).

It is important to note that upbringing and different environmental factors play a significant role in identifying the impact of these effects. Context of the behaviour change and understanding of behaviour change is important in assessing any kind of potential negative impact of the game on aggression level.  

Overall, the impact of internet sources on mental health varies according to gender, considering social media pressures, consuming data patterns, and online interaction dynamics.

Understanding these distinctions is critical for establishing targeted support and intervention networks for dealing with the distinctive mental health difficulties that people of different genders experience in the digital age (Sagar-Ouriaghli et al. 2020).

Efforts to build good online settings, provide reliable mental health information, and promote help-seeking behaviours can all contribute to improved mental health outcomes in the online domain, regardless of gender (Chang, and Lin, 2019).

2.3 How different genders are attracted to social networking sites and being affected 

Social networking sites have become an important part of our lives and they also influence how people communicate, share experiences, connect with each other, and present themselves in an online environment.

However, this attraction or influence level may differ for the different genders and there may be different priorities of individuals while seeking online content. 

Attraction aspect for women on social media content

First discussing about the gender disparities in social media engagement, Lin et al. (2017) discuss in their study that females are more active on social networking platforms compared to men. Many of the studies found more time spent by females on social media compared to males (Twenge and Martin, 2020). They are more active social tools for sharing their experience, social interaction, maintaining relationships and seeking emotional support.

Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are some of those platforms which are more popular with females considering the better visual content as well as connection-driven features. According to Sáez, et al., (2019), females may feel pressure considering the beauty standard or online harassment which affects their self-esteem and mental well-being. Next, discussing the impact of this engagement on mental health considering the gender perspective, it is found that social media can cause high societal pressure as well as unrealistic beauty standards for females.

According to Perloff (2014), more exposure to online content, curated images and comparing oneself with models and other celebrities may lead to dissatisfaction with the body. Different studies suggest that social media use is linked with adolescents’ mental health difficulties including any kind of depression, self-harm behaviour, anxiety, as well as low socio-economic well-being (Memon et al., 2018).

The sexualising factor of females who use social media is important and negatively affects young girls’ mental health. Sexualization often occurs when an individual is valued for sex appeal over different characteristics. Van Oosten (2021) also mentioned in their study that there is a significant impact of the sexualized image of the female in traditional media forms such as film, TV, and magazines these images are linked with depression as well as negative body image among young adults.    
It also impacts their self-esteem level while causing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Also, there are more cases of body shaming, cyberbullying and others for females which causes more fear, and insecurity among them (Hamid, Ismail, and Shamsuddin, 2018). Another reason for the rise in depression is a decline in self-esteem, particularly among adolescent girls, when they compare themselves adversely to beautifully constructed images of others who appeared to be prettier, smaller, more popular, and richer (Fitria, and Febrianti, 2020).

Adolescent females who use social media and see sexualized photos may internalize the viewpoint of an observer as their primary self-perception and regard themselves as a commodity valued for their appearance a concept known as "self-objectification” (Bell, Cassarly, and Dunbar, 2018). 

According to numerous reviews, self-objectification in females under the age of 18 is linked to eating disorders and symptoms of depression. Adolescent girls' self-objectification rose in response to sexualizing online media use, as judged by their use of social media or the Internet.

The Social Cognitive Theory, which posits that girls learn about acceptable social norms connected to sexualized conduct online through the validation of such images by "likes and comments," may help clarify this connection (Leaper, 2023). This kind of self-comparison with another individual on social media can lead to low self-confidence and depression issues. Also, it will put unrequired pressure on the women to look like they saw on social media. 

Attraction aspect for men on social media content

While men use social media, their patterns of use may differ. Men frequently tend toward platforms where information exchange, networking for work, and content consumption are dominant, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube (Laor, 2022). Gaming communities and forums also have a sizable male readership, creating areas for common interests and competing interaction. The earlier kids begin using social media, the bigger the influence on mental health.

This is particularly true for women. While young men tend to be physically aggressive, females tend to be relationally aggressive by isolating others and making hurtful comments (Mitchell, and Raghavan, 2021). Such dangerous contacts are made more likely by social media. Also, men may feel difficulty in dealing with the traditional masculinity perspective while staying in a competitive online environment which affects their support network as well as emotional expression (Berdahl et al., 2018).

Men can face different mental health challenges such as depression considering the reinforcement of the traditional norms of masculinity on social media. Such portray of strength, dominance, masculinity, emotional restraint, and others may cause stressful situations to reflect emotional expression (Levant, and Richmond, 2016). It may cause severe feelings of isolation, difficulty in sharing information regarding emotional perspective and also inadequacy feeling.

Further, competitive as well as confrontational behaviour in the digital environment may lead to aggression and stress among men and they feel a lack of support network considering their masculine personality which affects their overall wellbeing (Denson et al., 2020). Overall, there is a distinct impact of social media sites on individuals’ mental health which vary significantly based on gender. 

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2.4 Link between depression and social media overuse 

According to research published by the Pew Research Centre, 81% of teenagers and 69% of the adult population in the United States use social media. This causes a high risk of depression, anxiety, or social isolation issues in a wider context (Smith, 2017). It is important to understand such social media impact on depression considering the severity of depression cases and the high prevalence of social media overuse.  

Understanding these gender-specific issues is more important for developing effective interventions which may support the diverse mental health needs of individuals.

According to Nambisan et al. (2015), one can aim for better digital experiences and increased well-being for everybody by establishing good online settings and increasing mental health awareness targeted to diverse genders.  The link between depression and frequent social media use has received a lot of attention and controversy (Cataldo et al., 2021).

While social media platforms provide connectivity and opportunities for sharing knowledge, there is research that suggests a link between excessive usage of social media and a higher likelihood of depression (Ivie et al., 2020). 

First discussing about social comparison and self-esteem, there are more idealized personality versions showcased by people on digital platforms while showing travelling, relationships, luxury, achievement, and others (Dhir et al. 2018). Regular exposure to these idealized images or videos causes social comparison and differences in social standards.

A person seeing those pictures or profiles may perceive their own life as they are not successful enough or they are less fulfilling which may cause feelings of depression, inadequacy, or low self-esteem in them (Kelly et al., 2018). Also, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and Isolation an important term used in the context of social media (Hunt et al. 2018).

Constantly browsing through social media feeds can cause anxiety about missing out on the events that others are sharing. The concern of feeling left out or failing to meet societal norms imposed by social media can cause stress and anxiety, which can contribute to depressive symptoms.

Frequent social media use may also contribute to feelings of isolation (Chan et al., 2022). While people are virtually connected, actual social contact may decrease. Online contacts may replace physical contact and genuine ties, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

Vedula and Parthasarathy (2017) mentioned in their research that one of the primary differences in the life of young adults and current teenagers, compared to earlier generations is that they spend less time with their peers in person and more time on social media. Along with this, a hike in social media engagement makes people less satisfied and causes socially isolated feelings in them (Marttila, Koivula, and Räsänen, 2021). However negative interactions such as cyberbullying or hate comments may cause a depressing situation for the user.

This may trigger violent behaviour in males whereas stress or fearful situations in females. Overuse and overshare on Instagram also provide more exposure to harassment, negative interaction, or cyberbullying (Stankevich et al., 2019). These experiences significantly affect their mental health which may lead to depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health situations. Further, there is a significant link between lack of sleep or disrupted sleeping patterns and depression in males, females, and transgenders.

Excessive social media use, especially before bedtime, might alter sleep patterns. According to Woods, and Scott (2016), the blue light produced by screens can disrupt one's natural sleep cycle, resulting in sleep problems. Inadequate sleep quality is frequently linked to a higher likelihood of depression. It is critical to promote responsible and limited utilization of social media.

Setting limits, taking regular pauses, and being aware of the influence of the internet on psychological wellness can all assist in lessening its harmful consequences (Bond et al., 2018).

A further potential cause of depression is what kids are not doing while on social media, such as physical activity and tasks that produce a sense of accomplishment, such as acquiring new skills and developing abilities.

Radovic et al., (2017) found in their research that when individuals experience depression symptoms or other mental health issues, there could be immense benefits of professional support and therapy.

Therapists can play an important role here in addressing different issues and also framing coping strategies considering them (Obiechina, 2023). Despite having so much of potential challenges, social media also serves as a valuable communication and connection tool. Also, its misuse or overuse may cause different mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and others (Martínez-Castaño, et al., 2020).  

Promoting a balance social media approach may promote mental health awareness, and people may strive for healthy relationships which reduce the risk of depression in males, females, and transgenders. 

2.5 Literature gap  

Considering the literature information identified from different databases, it provides suitable information about depression, online sources, gender, and others. However, there is no empirical research is there which synthesises the combination of these aspects and reflects how overusing online content causes depression and its severity for different genders.

There are several studies which discuss about depression, and many of them discuss about overusing online content however, there is a lack of combined information which links all these and presents them more systematically.

Considering the gap, this research study will gather all the information and will present it in a more systematic form. This research attempts to conduct a systematic review of every relevant study to fill a gap by investigating the impact of online material on mental health, a type of form of inactivity that, increases the risk of health issues, when social media is being used in excess.

This study is significant because it gives information on the scope of the emphasis of peer-reviewed literature, which can help researchers deliver the possibility to comprehend future attention connected to climate change methods that require academic attention.  

Chapter 3: Research Methodology

3.1 Overview 

The methodology design is the most appropriate path through which the researcher would be able to process and conduct the investigation. In this study, the most suitable design is to review tried and tested data which was evaluated and filtered in the past. The gap that has been identified in relation to the area of investigation is a knowledge gap that is desired findings or results do not exist (Miles, 2017).

The present study revolves around one question that is “what is the impact of excessive internet use (mainly online content) on depression among different genders?” and this chapter will discuss the relevant methodological aspect needed to collect relevant data and access results that can help in meeting the objectives of the study. Research onion methods will be used to select the most suitable methods for this study. 
research onion model
 Figure 2 Research onion model 
Source: Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2012)

Research onion model, which was presented by Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2012) provides useful insight regarding the different research methods in the form of onion layers. For example, what aspect of the methodology needs to be understood first, then what method will be selected second, etc. Below mentioned sections below will be based on this research onion model. 

3.2 Research Philosophy

Interpretivism, Positivism, are pragmatism are three most important research philosophies being used in the studies based on the study type and data collection method. Interpretivism research philosophy is being selected in this study, considering the research aim and research questions. It is also the most suitable philosophy where a secondary data collection method is being used.

This philosophy selection will help in interpreting the secondary data collected in the study. It often aligns with qualitative approaches in science that aim to understand human or social experiences (Park, et al., 2020). It also acknowledges that biases, views, and perceptions are brought to the research process by both respondents and investigators. 

3.3 Research Approach 

The research approach in any of the studies reflects whether the study will be performed freshly or will be based on existing theory. There are two types of research approaches being used in general including inductive and deductive research approaches (Tuffour, 2017). This study will be based on a generalization inductive research approach. An inductive technique generates theories or generalizations based on particular observations or situations.

On the basis of discernible patterns, it may additionally be utilized to produce theories or concepts (Azungah, 2018). On the other hand, the deductive research approach works on an existing hypothesis or existing theory where the data collected method is based on checking the hypothesis (Azungah, 2018). However, the inductive approach is more suitable here as it progresses from better generalization or observation. 

3.4 Study design and methodology 

Quantitative, qualitative, mono-quantitative, mono-qualitative, and mixed are some of the most commonly used methodologies in the research. The Mono methods (mono qualitative-mono quantitative) include single data collection and analysis, which can be either qualitative or quantitative. This research study is based on a mono-qualitative methodology as it will play an important role in accessing open-ended information.

This methodology is the most suitable as it will provide more explanation and better insight collected from peer-reviewed literature (Brannen, 2017). This study will follow a systematic method to identify and analyse the overall experience of different genders that use the internet in excess and how they are facing depression issues.

The secondary data is being collected from the literature studies using adequate, real, and peer-reviewed research articles. Along with this, the study will be designed in a descriptive manner.    

3.5 Search Strategy 

This is a desk-based qualitative study, with all data sourced from current journal articles or peer-reviewed literature. This study will use the secondary data gathering approach, which collects only already published data. A systematic literature review (SLR) will be used to collect and analyse this type of secondary material.

This SLR will assess data from peer-reviewed published literature that highlight mental health problems among kids. To cover the research gap, published literature papers will be assessed in this systematic review.

The databases that will be used in this study to search for the related literature are Science Direct, Directory of Open Access Journals, and Elsevier (Martín-Martín et al., 2018).

Further, using this database and Boolean operator the keywords that have been identified are provided in below mention table. In relation to the significance of the selection process of keywords is that it will improve the visibility and discoverability of the papers. In addition to this, it significantly helps to broaden the obtained results (Lu et al., 2020). 

Keywords that will be used while performing the systematic literature review are “depression gender”, “depression online sources” “online source impact mental health”, “gender and mental health”, “internet overuse and depression”, “depression in men using internet”, “depression in women using internet”, “internet overuse affecting different gender”, “men and women depression by social media”, “mental health and internet overuse”, “internet addiction and psychiatric symptoms”, “use of social media and depression”, “gender behavioural patterns and internet overuse” etc. 

3.6 Inclusion and exclusion criteria and SPIDER 

There are no specific age range criteria for the participants as the study topic does not rely on age factors. Also, only UK-based studies will be part of this research. Some other inclusion and exclusion criteria are mentioned below: - 

Inclusion Criteria Exclusion Criteria
Articles published in the English language Articles published in any other language
Studies published during and after 2013. Studies published before 2013 will not be considered.
Peer-reviewed literature to gather data. Participants having no history of depression will be excluded.
Research includes interviews, focus group discussions and others will be included. Articles including personal opinions will not be included.
Original articles will be considered in the study Blogs, opinion pieces and unauthorized websites will be excluded.
  Primary Search Terms Synonyms
S Information related to Gender Male, Female, and Transgenders
PI Online sources, Psychiatric Symptom            Government sites, Forums, Authentic websites
Psychological and mental health, depression, anxiety
D Opinion          
Point of view, belief, conviction, Insight
Knowledge, familiarity, involvement
E Influence         Impact, Consequence
R Qualitative Descriptive

Considering the database and the potential keywords 120 articles related to the topic have been identified among which 16 have been selected that fully match the criteria of the present study. 

3.7 Quality assessment criteria 

A quality evaluation tool can examine the underlying reliability of a systematic review as well as the quality of evidence. Because of the various aspects evaluated by it regarding a research paper, the CASP (Critical Appraisal Skills Programme) checklists (refer to the appendix) are employed as a quality assessment instrument in the current study (Zeng et al., 2015).

The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) checklists are a set of questions designed to assist researchers in assessing research papers. These research approaches, which include systemic reviews, randomized controlled trials, cohort research, case-control research, economic assessments, diagnostic investigations, qualitative research, and clinical forecasting rules, are frequently employed in the healthcare industry.

First, the purpose of the paper was examined, as well as the kind of study methodology used by the investigator. A systematic literature review is identified as the most suitable method for the study. As there are several pieces of research published that provide some sort of information regarding the topic, thus performing a secondary qualitative study (systematic literature review) is not only time and effort-saving but also provides a more descriptive analysis of the research question.

All the articles used in the systematic literature review were evaluated considering the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The research design and recruitment strategy are then appraised. The checklists also address the reliability of data gathering and analysis methodologies, as well as ethical concerns. These factors were taken into account when selecting research papers for the systematic review. 

3.8 Data Collection

It can be better understood by the method used to collect fresh information from different sources which will be used in a systematic literature review to analyse their findings and combine all the reach at suitable outcome. This study will be based on a systematic literature review. It aims to identify and evaluate different literature on a specific research topic in order to foster better conclusions about the research question.

This research method is more cost-effective, time efficient, provides accessibility to different data, and organized data and also provides more validity to the research outcome (Booth et al., 2021). Identifying the depression aspect for different genders who use social media is a wider topic area and there are several research articles which provide some of the relevant information in this context. This research findings will provide combined all the aspects of this study. 

In order to reduce the time and effort needed for primary research, it will be crucial for researchers to combine the results of various studies. Peer-reviewed articles additionally validate the data source and evaluate multiple studies concurrently to obtain more accurate results.

Investigating the Observations and Opinions of the person suffering from depression while overusing online content is the main goal of this study. Because the topic is particularly relevant to the healthcare environment, performing primary research here will also need obtaining numerous regulatory approvals as well as resources like time, money, and effort.

3.9 Prisma Flow Chart 

primsa flow chart
A PRIMSA flow chart helps in visually summarizing the screening procedure. It helps in identifying the number of articles suitable while following the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

It also makes the selection process transparent by considering decisions made at different stages of a systematic literature review. Above mentioned reflects the study selection process that will be used in the systematic literature review in this chapter.

There was a total of 500 articles being selected using the different databases mentioned in the previous chapter such as Elsevier, JSTOR, Taylor & Francis, and others.

From these 500 articles, 400 articles were excluded which were not available in English or full text was not available. Further, filters were used to exclude articles, such as putting a filter to remove older articles or articles that were not peer reviewed.

Only the abstracts of these articles were accessible and paid access or university authorization was required to get the full information. Therefore, in the screening stage, there were a total of 100 articles selected.

Further, 50 articles were eliminated in this stage which were not related to research questions. Some of these were not discussed regarding the overuse of the internet and some of these were not discussed in the depression context.

Further, 84 studies were excluded concerning not meeting the inclusion criteria such as studies published before 2013, or studies not using interview or case study analysis were excluded. After stages 3 and 4, a total of 16 studies are selected for the SLR which is discussed in the research aim context. 

3.10 Data Analysis and Results

The data analysis method plays an important role in order to attain the main study findings by analysing the collected data and aligning it with the findings of the published literature studies (Neuendorf, 2018). SPSS Frequency analysis, thematic analysis, and regression analysis, and other techniques are some of the most preferred data analysis methods (Ryan, 2018).

The researcher is using thematic analysis to analyse the data in this case considering the secondary data collection. Codes will be identified form the collected data and they will be accumulated to identify the main themes. Using this strategy, all data will be classified into several themes based on the study's objectives. All acquired data will be examined based on these themes, while the information will be aligned with the published information accessed in chapter two.  

The thematic analysis method will also help in organizing the codes in a more significant manner and reviewing the data in a more insightful manner (Neuendorf, 2018). This method also plays an important role in identifying the main summary or findings of the study and interpreting it in a more significant way. 

3.11 Research Ethics

The present study is of a secondary nature so the researcher does not have to acquire ethical approval since the data that will be used is publicly available. Further, in relation to ethical considerations the study will not include copied content that is study will not contain any plagiarised content.

Also, in order to align with epistemology as well as teleological positioning, the researcher prudently designed an adequate sampling strategy as well as a search plan with complementary sources. The researcher ethically considered the positioning of the research studies which was included in the sample studies in the context of their diverse contextual configuration as well as viewpoint generally observed in a practical environment.  

Chapter 4: Results

4.1 Overview 

This is the fourth chapter of the study which aims to collect the secondary data required to identify the needful information in order to meet the objectives of the study.  It will include the systematic literature review which is performed using the data collected from 12 primary literature studies. The findings of this systematic literature review will be discussed and evaluated using thematic analysis in the next chapter.  

4.2 Systematic Literature Review (SLR) 

S. No Study Name Author and year of publication Study Design Sample Data analysis Outcome
1 Stay-at-home fathers, depression, and help-seeking: A consensual qualitative research study.
Caperton et al., (2020) Qualitative/In-depth interview 12 participants from across the United States Thematic analysis  Stay-at-home-fathers (SAHFs) who experience depression are found to retain high value in providing for their families.
2 The Interpretation and Attitude of Body Shaming Behaviour on social media (A Digital Ethnography Study on Instagram) Fitria, and Febrianti (2020) Qualitative study 5 participants were selected purposively. Interview People who suffer from body shaming on Instagram prefer to engage in content promoting body positivity and self-love rather than lowering internet use.
3 Ethical issues in using Twitter for population-level depression monitoring: a qualitative study Mikal, Hurst & Conway (2016) Focus group interview 26 Twitter user with or without a depression history  Semi-structured protocol Different attitudes for the use of public domain social media in population health research, through acceptance to opposition.
4 Social media, Big Data and Public Health Informatics: Ruminating behaviour
of depression revealed through Twitter
Nambisan et al. (2015) Cross-sectional study qualitative design 713 tweets Direct observation of Tweets Social media has
been used for disseminating public health information,
but not much for gathering public health information
5 Barriers and facilitators of adherence to antidepressants among outpatients with major depressive disorder: A qualitative study Ho, Jacob, and Tangiisuran (2017) Semi-structured in-depth interview 30 patients Thematic analysis Patient-specific, social-culturally specific, logistic-specific, and medication-specific are identified as some of the barriers whereas having better insights, regular activities, social support networks, and patient-provider relationships are identified as important facilitators.
6 Understanding Help-Seeking Behavior in Depression: A Qualitative Synthesis of Patients’ Experiences Doblyte, and Jiménez-Mejías (2017) Meta-ethnography approach/ Qualitative data 474 Individual Interpretive approach  The majority of the people found help accessing as a threat to their identity and faced difficulty in identifying social networks as conflict or support.
7 A qualitative study of online mental health information-seeking behaviour by those with psychosis Aref-Adib et al. (2016) Semi-structured interview 22 people with psychosis Thematic analysis Majority of the people search the internet to get help for their psychotic experience or read more information about the diagnosis.
8 Perception Differences between the Depressed and Non-Depressed Users on Twitter Park, McDonald, and Cha. (2013) Semi-structured interview 14 Active twitter users Interpretive approach  Participants with no depression use Twitter as an information-consuming as well as sharing platform whereas participants with depression use it for emotional interaction and social interaction.
9 A qualitative study of university students' experience of Internet-based CBT for depression Gericke et al. (2021) Semi-structured interview 9 students from South African University Thematic analysis Participants found the privacy as well as the accessibility of the Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy appealing and believed that adequate use of this intervention will help in overcoming from stigma linked with traditional counselling services.
10 Association of smartphone overuse with depression, anxiety, and other addictive behaviours: A nationwide community sample of Korean adults Jo et al. (2021) Smartphone Overuse Screening Questionnaire (SOS-Q) Interview 2509 participants Linear regression and Pearson correlation analyses  People who use smartphones for more than 3 hours a week are more likely to be single. 
11 Characteristics of Internet Addiction/Pathological Internet Use in U.S. University Students: A Qualitative-Method Investigation Li et al. (2015) In-depth individual interview 6 University Students Code analysis Low or under-achievement in academics, sleep deprivation, failure to perform, lack of social activities and reduced ability to concentrate are some of the identified consequences of overusing the internet.
12 Social Media Use and Monitoring for Adolescents with Depression and Implications for the COVID-19 Pandemic: Qualitative Study of Parent and Child Perspectives Biernesser et al. (2020) Qualitative interview 23 adolescents and one parent of each (23) Dyadic analysis Both adolescent and their parents deny the use and function of social media in the daily lives of adolescents with depression while adolescents view social media as a platform to share their emotional experiences. On the other hand, parents found their children’s posts are interfered and inconsequential with adolescents' lives.
13 The problematic use of social networking sites is associated with elevated symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder Aydin et al. (2020) Structured Clinical Interview  111 patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder multiple linear regression analyses The result reflects that major depressive disorder is more linked with social networking site use compared to those who have health control over social media use.
14 Over-connected? A qualitative exploration of smartphone addiction among working adults in China Li, and Lin (2019) Semi-structured interview 32 Chinese workers Thematic analysis Conscientious workers are more likely to have smartphone addiction, generating results that conflict with those of the majority of existing studies on technological addiction.
15 How Do Adolescents Use Social Networks and What Are Their Potential Dangers? A Qualitative Study of Gender Differences de Felice et al. (2022) Interview/Focus group 24 focus groups including 296 participants Code base analysis of the transcript There are two main risk factors are identified associated with social networks. These are desperately searching for popularity and exhibiting offensive behaviour.
16 “My smartphone is an extension of myself”: A holistic qualitative exploration of the impact of using a smartphone. Harkin, and Kuss (2021) Qualitative focus group study 21 participants, 11 females constructivist grounded theory analysis Smartphones are highly linked with users’ lives. These devices hold value by constant connectivity.

4.3 Thematic analysis

Theme 1 – High social media use may cause difficulty for males to express their feelings based on an ideal stereotype gender representation whereas women may feel negative body image and cyberbullying risk. 

This theme is derived from the thematic analysis mentioned below. First, the literature review discusses in the context of social media and gender disparities context. The studies reflect that the high use of the internet has a severe impact on the mental health of both males and females. However, there is a difference in how they experience it.

For example, Females are found using social media for sharing emotional experiences and thus, they are also facing more internet cases of negative body image, high susceptibility as well as comparison with others which sometimes lead to online harassment or cyberbullying.

On the other hand, men are more prone to use YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for social connection, exchanging information and also the content consumption. These preferences highlight different patterns in using social media for different genders which are influenced by different interests and purposes.

This can lead to emotions of inadequateness or anxiousness.  While both men and women are at risk of anxiety, depression, and poor cognitive function as a result of overuse of the internet, the manifestations and specific issues differ.

Recognizing these distinctions is critical for designing approaches. Men's treatments may emphasize reintegrating into society and isolation, whereas women's treatments may emphasize promoting appropriate online conduct and dealing with self-esteem concerns associated with social media.

Understanding gender-specific challenges is important in offering targeted support for better mental health. According to Lin et al. (2017), internet overuse including social media platforms or online interaction platforms shapes the mental health of individuals in different ways which fosters both positive as well as negative effects. 

Also, considering the study finding of de Felice et al. (2022), it is found that inappropriate social networks often foster links with gaining popularity and taking part in offensive behaviour. Constant inclusion can lead to desperate activities which compromise privacy and authenticity. Furthermore, social media’s anonymity can encourage offensive activities such as cyberbullying and hate speech.

These risk factors demonstrate how users may unintentionally injure themselves or other people in the digital environment in their need of attention or expression. Knowledge, ethical usage, and encouraging positive connections are critical in minimizing these threats and creating a safer online community. Felice et al. (2022) performed focus group interviews on 24 focus groups and the participant size was 296. Thus, this code base analysis provides useful insight regarding the different risk factors linked with social networks. 

Gender biases can be seen in online information consumption as well. As an example, Kim (2017) found gender differences in platform preferences, such as women preferring health-related content (McCrae et al., 2017), which represents potential information decisions regarding treatment. Men, on the other hand, are stressed by conforming to conventional masculinity norms, which inhibits their ability to express vulnerability or seek therapy for mental health issues, probably leading to untreated diseases such as depression.

Social expectations regarding masculinity norms put severe psychological burdens on men which discourage them from seeking mental health care. As a consequence, many men may avoid obtaining mental health care, which leads to ineffective therapy and exacerbates the gender discrepancy in mental healthcare.  This cultural narrative prevents males from admitting to having psychological problems, resulting in delayed or poor treatment. Thus, their ailments may worsen, harming their overall well-being.

Reducing these challenges includes dealing with different social standards and promoting more open social discussion regarding the well-being of men and their psychological health. These norms promote the general social perception that men should be self-sufficient in them and should not be weak in any life situation. Li et al. (2015) performed in-depth individual interviews on 6 university students.

Studies found that high use of the internet is also linked with different various consequences, especially in academic, social as well as psychological domains. Poor performance in academics is often the result of high screen time that distracts individuals from studies and lowers their focus.

Further, sleep deprivation which results from late-night internet use can disrupt sleep patterns and overall have a negative impact on mental well-being. Furthermore, excessive internet use is associated with a drop in social activities, with online participation replacing face-to-face contacts, affecting interpersonal abilities and real-world connections. Another effect of continual exposure to diverse benefits online is a lower ability to concentrate, which hinders prolonged concentration. These implications underline the importance of internet moderation.

Setting limits on screen use, boosting offline pursuits, and promoting good sleep patterns are all important strategies. Establishing a balance between online interaction and real-life interaction with real-life promotes a better holistic lifestyle and also lowers the inadequate impact on academic performance. It helps in improving the social relationship as well as well-being. However, there are several benefits linked to internet use in individuals.

Women face frequent harassment, cyberbullying, and monitoring, which increases their stress and anxiety. Knowing these differences allows associated regulatory authorities to design targeted interventions (Sagar-Ouriaghli et al., 2020) and support systems to treat mental health difficulties based on gender.

There are chances that males may feel more distressed and stressed regarding the competitive environment outside in which they have to make a presence while not feeling low, or weak. On the other hand, women may feel stress about their bodies while being more attentive to online images promoting ideal women's bodies. 

Furthermore, boosting digital mental health and wellness programs benefits mental well-being, which encompasses two distinct components. It entails giving accurate mental health information as well as creating a conducive online environment. First and foremost, mental health material on the internet must be factual and dependable.

This will assist persons suffering from inadequate mental health in accessing reliable services, comprehending mental health concerns, and determining whether to seek professional treatment. Accurate knowledge minimizes stigma and fosters proactive approaches to mental health.

Second, creating a welcoming online atmosphere involves selecting content that encourages positivity, resiliency, and psychological understanding while avoiding or reducing content that is unpleasant or upsetting.

Individuals can feel secure and encouraged online by creating supportive groups, fostering discussions about coping skills, and prioritizing self-care and psychological wellness maintenance.  The digital environment or social media can become a promotor of mental health-seeking behaviour by providing adequate information dissemination as well as promoting a positive digital landscape. 

Based on these findings, it can be recommended that incorporating families, school support personnel, and youth mental health professionals into effective preventative and intervention methods is crucial for strengthening the mental well-being of adolescents. Social media has a severe impact on transforming how different people interact with one another and take care of themselves.

Social media tools such as Facebook and Instagram, all are significantly promoting unattainable beauty standards, which put more psychological burden on women. As a result of this exposure, feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth are reduced. Promoting surroundings which help to understand about the individual experience and also normalizing the help-seeking behaviour is necessary in order to lower the gap in reducing mental health care.

Codes (First order categories) Codes (Second order categories) Theme
High internet use affects mental health differently for genders for men feel difficulty in sharing their emotions whereas women are more engaged with social media which causes negative body image experiences, cyberbullying, and inadequacy feelings.
  • Social exclusion
  • Stereotype gender representation
  • Negative body image
  • Cyberbullying
  • Inadequacy feeling
High social media use may cause difficulty for males to express their feelings based on an ideal stereotype gender representation whereas women may feel negative body image and cyberbullying risk.

Theme 2 - Men are more prone to use gaming content and adopt aggressive behaviour whereas women seek Instagram and Facebook and feel the stress of body shaming while comparing themselves with beauty standards. 

This theme is also derived from the below-mentioned analysis of the systematic literature review findings as well as by preliminary literature review. First, interpreting the systematic literature finding from a social media engagement perspective while understanding gender disparities, it is found that there are different engagement levels of different genders for social media platforms.

The findings of the study (Lin et al. 2017) help in concluding that women are more active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for relationships, emotional support and sharing their experiences with others. Discussing about the challenges linked to mental health services access for individuals, Doblyte, and Jiménez-Mejías (2017) mentioned that several individuals try to access mental health help on social websites however, they face challenges of threats to their identity. They struggle to evaluate the support and validity of the support services. The lack of recognition or visibility of their issues creates a conflict situation.

They are afraid of being judged or exposed while seeking help. This split perspective makes it difficult for them to navigate social environments. The network's role, whether it causes conflict or provides genuine support, keeps many people in the dark, limiting their capacity to seek help. Further, females feel more body shaming on Instagram as there is more content on Instagram which promotes body-related content.

It is found that individuals who suffer from body shaming are more active on Instagram in identifying body-positivity-related content. Fitria, and Febrianti (2020) supported this in their qualitative study while selecting interviews as a research method. Further, according to Ho, Jacob, and Tangiisuran (2017), patient-specific issues, social stigma a reluctance to seek help considering cultural norms are some of the most identified barriers to the mental health. 

Men generally offer a high prevalence of internet addiction while leading to gaming or content consumption. Such addiction may foster high aggression, social withdrawal as well as challenges in forming real-life connections. Gender norms are evident in virtual interactions. Men typically engage in competitive or gaming activities, such as online multiplayer gaming or social networking, which elicit feelings of inadequacy and stress (Keles et al., 2020). Perloff (2014) and Fitria and Febrianti (2020) emphasize important gender-specific ramifications of this interaction on mental health.

Beauty standards in online content have a more significant impact on women who start comparing their bodies with the inadequate idealized pictures on the internet. Such body dissatisfaction can get worse by being high attention for social media photographs of models or other social media influencers which can ultimately lead to a lack of trust, nervousness as well as hopelessness.

Body shaming and trolls contribute to female insecurities by generating an environment of worry and fear. Early social media access contributes to these mental health issues, particularly among adolescent females, who frequently attribute themselves unfavourably to idealized images, resulting in a decline in self-esteem and an increased propensity to depression.

On the other hand, for men, social media frequently promotes conventional male norms while boosting personality traits such as strength, lack of emotional experience, and so on.  Levant and Richmond (2016) also mentioned in their study that different body presentations on internet gender wisely can significantly raise depression, inadequacy, as well as loneliness. Ultimately, this situation can cause a sense of disconnection from support networks which impacts overall well-being. 

Sáez et al. (2019) support these findings by underlining the pressure women suffer as a result of standards of beauty and online harassment, which affects self-esteem and psychological health. Men, on the other hand, struggle to maintain traditional masculine viewpoints in competitive online spaces, limiting feelings and support networks and, as a result, negatively impacting mental health.

Overall, the literature findings reflect that women face more challenges regarding body cures, beauty standards and negative comments which lead to harm to their self-esteem and promote mental health issues.

On the other hand, men face challenges more regarding masculine behaviour, not sharing emotional feelings and always reflecting strength. This constant representation fosters challenges for those men who are more emotional and do not want to foster such masculine behaviour. This causes depressive and social isolation behaviour in them.

Understanding these differences in challenges for men and women is important for fostering targeted interventions which focus on reducing the adverse mental health effects of social media for different genders. 

Codes (First order categories) Codes (Second order categories) Theme
Women are found more active on Instagram, and Facebook, and more affected by body shaming feeds and beauty standards whereas men are more prone to gaming-related content which makes them aggressive. They also face difficulty in sharing mental health-related issues considering social stigma.
  • Instagram, Facebook
  • Body shame, Beauty standards
  • Gaming activities
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Social stigma
Men are more prone to use gaming content and adopt aggressive behaviour whereas women seek Instagram and Facebook and feel the stress of body shaming while comparing themselves with beauty standards.

Theme 3 - High social media use is linked with depression as people feel “Fear of missing out”, social comparison, and loneliness. 

Below is the detailed evaluation of both systematic and preliminary literature findings that helped in deriving this theme. First, considering the systematic literature, Aydin et al. (2020) mentioned in their study that people with major depressive disorder can foster a strong link with high social media use compared to those who have better control over their online habits.

High engagement may lead to depressive symptoms considering the excessive exposure for seeing socialized images, a sense of missing out and social comparison. Those with depressed tendencies may seek comfort or approval online, which could start a negative emotional cycle. Individuals who practice healthier social media habits, on the other hand, explore these networks with greater awareness, reducing possible detrimental effects on their psychological health and retaining a balanced viewpoint offline.

This qualitative study performed structured clinical interviews on 111 patients who were diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Along with this, the study performed multiple linear regression analyses which provided a strength to the finding.   

The literature findings reflect that there is a high link between overusing social media with depression. For example, research findings from Smith (2017) reflect the pervasive nature associated with social media use and mention that 69% of adults and 81% of teenagers in the USA are engaged with different online platforms. Such high social media use reflects considerable risk factors for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and social isolation.

Biernesser et al. (2020) also mentioned in their study that there is a disconnect between the perception of parents and adolescents regarding social media’s link with depressed teenagers. Young adult often considers social media platforms as their option to share their emotion and get support. They consider sharing their experience as a form of connection however, parents found it struggling to comprehend the importance.

They perceive their children’s posts as intrusive or trivial. This misunderstanding leads to a generation gap in acknowledging the impact of social media on mental health. The disparity highlights the importance of discussion and understanding between families and adolescents. While parents may view these online contacts as disturbing, they are critical channels for depressed youth. Fostering empathy and awareness of both the beneficial and detrimental consequences of social media usage can help bridge this divide.

Collaborative effort can frame restrictions as well as support approaches to promote healthy online engagement for adults with depression while promoting it as a suitable approach for expression as well as connection. This qualitative study performed dyadic analysis. 

Nambisan et al. (2015) underline the necessity of creating welcoming online environments and boosting mental health knowledge customized to different genders in order to improve user experience and well-being. The connection between depression and regular social media usage has been a source of contention, with much research indicating a link between excessive consumption and an increased risk of depression.

Social comparison and self-worth affect mental health. Social media posting of personal lifestyle, trips, relationship updates, and posts about luxury goods all contribute to social comparison, which lowers self-esteem and increases the risk of depression in people who believe that their lives are not profitable or sufficiently satisfying. Similarly, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), is another important aspect associated with mental health aspect.

Excessive social media use may also substitute for true human contact and face-to-face interactions, resulting in emotions of loneliness and isolation (Vedula & Parthasarathy, 2017). This isolation is especially noticeable among younger generations, who spend less time in person with friends and more hours on social media.

Codes (First order categories) Codes (Second order categories) Theme
High social media use is linked with depression. Fear of Missing out, social comparison, as well as lack of social inclusion cause low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness. Parents should maintain better communication with adolescents to lower the depression caused in youth.
  • High social media linked with depression
  • Fear of missing out, social comparison
  • Loneliness
  • Better communication
High social media use is linked with depression as people feel “Fear of missing out,” social comparison, and loneliness.

Chapter 5: Discussion

5.1 Key findings of systematic review 

The above-mentioned literature review helped in collecting, evaluating, and interpreting findings of the existing literature related to the research topic “Depression in different genders due to the online sources- a public health issue.”

The systematic review examines the complex interaction between online sources and psychological wellness, concentrating on how gender discrepancies shape people's experiences in the digital realm. The review covers a wide range of studies, including the impact of social media, consuming data patterns, and internet interaction dynamics.

Discussing the study findings considering both thematic analysis as well as preliminary literature review, it is found that Different sex groups suffer various effects from high internet use on mental health.

For example, men may find it difficult to express their emotions, while women are more likely to utilize social media platforms which can lead to bad body image, cyberbullying, and feelings of inadequacy.

The study's conclusions also made it clear that, while men are more likely to be aggressive due to gaming-related content, women are more likely to be active on Facebook and Instagram and to be more impacted by body-shaming feeds and beauty standards.

Given the societal stigma associated with mental health disorders, they also find it difficult to discuss them. Overall, it has been discovered that depression and excessive use of social media are related.

Low self-esteem and a sense of isolation are compounded by social comparison, fear of missing out, and a lack of social inclusion. To reduce the risk of depression in children and adolescents, parents should communicate with them more effectively. 

5.2 Limitations encountered while performing a systematic literature review 

During this systematic literature review, there are several limitations I encountered including language and access, quality assessment, search strategy and others. First of all, the studies published in any other language than English (15) are excluded thus, it led to limited accessibility of articles through specific databases.

Also, assessing quality and risk of bias in different studies can be subjective. Thus, it was challenging for me to interpret the findings in a similar manner which could impact the overall reliability of the study’s conclusion. Along with this, in many studies, there was variability in the methodology used, study design and attained outcome which made the synthesis complicated.

Thus, many of these kinds of studies were excluded from the systematic literature review. Along with this, specific keywords were being used by the researcher mentioned in the above chapter. Even while having a comprehensive search strategy, there are chances of missing some relevant strategies considering limitations in search terms.  

Furthermore, the assessment process was also a challenge for the study. Since fresh research studies continue to be published, it is possible that the review will not include the most up-to-date data, impacting the relevance and accuracy of the findings.

Similarly, combining findings from multiple studies, particularly when results are determined differently, presented difficulties in synthesizing the information into a meaningful conclusion. Furthermore, some of the papers lacked thorough reporting of data or process specifics, making it difficult for the researcher to extract vital details for analysis. 

5.3 Recommendation 

Considering the research findings, future research studies or potential researchers are recommended to focus on identifying different mental health challenges encountered by different genders while using the internet. They should focus on identifying different aspects while not limiting to the impact of different online platforms or cultural differences on mental conditions. Along with this, considering the time constraint and specific project deadline, this research design was cross-sectional qualitative.

However, the topic is broad and undertaking longitudinal studies may provide different and more significant results. It may help future researchers to track the long-term impact of online exposure on mental health for different genders. Also, longitudinal research can help in identifying better insight into the short-term relationship between mental health and internet experience. 

Further, researchers are also recommended to perform studies which include different population groups while considering different socioeconomic situations, and geographical as well as cultural aspects that cause diversity in user experiences and in their mental health needs.  Further, researchers may focus on developing gender-specific interventions. They might suggest Customize support and intervention systems in online places to meet the various psychological needs of men and women.

Efforts encouraging healthy online habits, body positivity initiatives, and mental health services available to all genders could fall under this category. It is also suggested that government entities or other related groups implement educational programs focusing on the use of technology and mental health understanding, concentrating on the risks linked with online conduct. Equip people, particularly young people, with the ability to critically analyse and govern their online experiences.

Discussing the research method limitation, future researchers are advised to expand their search term criteria while including a wider database to minimize the chance of not using the relevant studies. Also, the researcher may find suitable standardized criteria which assess study quality and bias risk by fostering consistency as well as reliability in including and interpreting the studies.

These are some of the recommendations for government bodies and future research holders to provide more effective interventions, understand the effect of online sources on the mental health of different genders and foster better support mechanisms. 

5.4 Opportunities for Future Research   

Future researches have significant opportunities to explore the longitudinal impact of online interaction on mental health for different genders. This research can shed light on how long-term exposure to varied online materials, social media usage habits, and digital experiences impact mental health outcomes.

There is also an opportunity to look further into intersectional perspectives, such as how gender interacts with other identifiers such as ethnic background, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic position in shaping mental health experiences in digital environments.

Researchers can find distinct weaknesses and strengths connected to online psychological wellness in varied communities by analysing these intersections. Further, researchers have the opportunity to discuss innovative personalized interventions for addressing gender-based mental health needs in the online environment. It may include developing tech-based solutions, online support communities or other tailored support programs.

Such intervention should focus on reductive negative influences on mental health such as body shaming, cyberbullying, and others to reduce pressure on different genders for a specific prototype. Further, there is also scope for understanding the need for digital literacy programs for different genders.

These programs could be implemented into schools or community projects with the goal of equipping everyone, but especially young people, with the analytical skills, knowledge of media, and emotional resilience required to properly traverse online places. Collaboration with social media companies to develop and evaluate treatments that establish pleasant online environments, reduce negative content, and encourage mental health support services suited to various gender needs is also essential. 

5.5 Research implication 

There are several aspects in which the implication of this research finding can be used. These are fostering informed mental health intervention, shaping better internet use policies, improving mental health education, fostering awareness and others.

First of all, knowing how overusing online sources can affect mental health in distinct ways for genders and allowing for developing target interventions. Such intervention may be used in addressing different challenges faced by genders in the internet world including body shaming, masculinity norms acceptance and others. 

Support for mental health can be more successful and inclusive if interventions are tailored to these gender-specific requirements. Furthermore, research findings can help to shape regulations that protect mental health in digital domains.

Insights regarding gender-specific weaknesses online can improve social media platform norms for fostering responsible content creation, minimizing cyberbullying, and encouraging good interactions. According to research-backed suggestions, working with these social media sites to create safer and more friendly online environments becomes critical.

Also, the findings of this study can be used to support clinical practices by providing suggestions regarding the specific mental health concern for online sources which is experienced by different genders. Healthcare professionals may use the findings to upgrade their approaches, and treatment methods to handle such digital influence on users’ well-being.

Chapter 6: Conclusion 

6.1 Summary Of The Finding  

This is the last chapter of the dissertation which discusses about the critical summary of the research as well as a reflection on what the researcher has learned during the competition of the project. It will also explain how the research findings are attained with the research questions discussed in the first chapter of the study. 

Study findings for the first research question 

First of all, discussing in the context of the first research question which was” identifying the impact of excessive internet use on the mental health situation of different genders,” the research findings reflect the severe impact of high internet use on the mental health of individual no matter what their gender is.

Men feel more difficulty in sharing their mental health situation or consulting with any psychiatrist considering the social perception of men to be rigid, tough, and not feeling sad. On the other hand, women may feel stressed while comparing their bodies with social media influencers.

This kind of situation leads to a decrease in their self-esteem and improves mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. This difference in engagement pattern also impacts mental health outcomes women feel body image issues as well as cyberbullying whereas men suffer from social expectations of stress, emotional restraint, and masculinity. 

Study findings for the second research question 

Next, discussing the findings linked with the second research question “How different genders are attracted to social networking sites and the extent to which they are affected,” the study also provides useful insight which reflects how different genders are affected by this in terms of different outcomes. This exposure is associated with an increased risk of dissatisfaction, nervousness, and depression.

Men, on the other hand, struggle with traditional masculine ideals promoted online, resulting in issues seeking aid, expressing emotions, and coping with situations of competition. There are different uses of social media which affect the impact of social media engagement on different levels considering gender and other factors. Women spend more time on platforms that place emphasis on both connection and emotional support.

Men, on the other hand, prefer information-centric apps that help them grow their connections in a competitive environment. Furthermore, online engagement procedures raise mental health problems, especially when they involve gender-specific issues. Women are especially vulnerable to online harassment and stalking, which increases their levels of stress and anxiety.

Men, on the other hand, exhibit competitive, averse online behaviours that foster failure and anxiety. These bad experiences create toxic environments which hurt the happiness of both genders. Further, also gender disparities in social media platform content and their effects are different as women are found more engaging in sharing their emotions, as well as social experiences on social media.

They feel more social pressure in terms of body shaming, unreal beauty standards, or cyberbullying. On the other hand, man uses the internet for information exchange, competitive communication as well as building network.

It creates a challenge for them in dealing with traditional masculinity norms and fulfilling other’s expectations of looking more mature and masculine. This personality pressure led them to emotional restraint, stress, and challenges in accessing support which affected their overall mental health. 

Study findings for the third research question 

Lastly, discussing the findings for the third research question “link between depression and internet overuse,” it is found that, excessive interaction with idealized content, fear of missing out, and loneliness as a result of continual browsing all lead to comparing oneself to others, low self-worth, stress, and anxiety, all of which contribute to depression.

Negative interactions on social media platforms, such as online harassment, hate critiques, and discrimination, have a substantial impact on causing depression. Sleep disruptions caused by excessive screen time increase mental health difficulties, as poor sleep quality is frequently connected to an increased risk of depression. 

Next, critically evaluating the insights and research gap, it can be said that the literature adequately addresses the effect of overusing the internet on mental health.

However, even while there are studies which focus on specific aspects either depression, gender-specific impact, or internet overuse, studies lack combined synthesized research findings which provide a detailed understanding of how high access to internet content can cause depression and how this impact differs for males and females.

Overall, this research provides a holistic understanding of the link between gender differences, overusing the internet and mental health in order to provide a better understanding for future researchers or other responsible authorities to prepare targeted interventions.

The literature review highlights the complex relationship between high internet use, gender disparities, and mental health. The result is more focused on linking the mental health aspects of depression. 

Limitation of the study – The main limitation of this systematic literature review is that it does not collect the primary data. It is reliable on the studies from which the literature information is being collected. Next, the study also does not discuss about other mental health aspects and only limited to the depression. 

Recommendation for future researchers – Considering the research findings, it is advised to future researchers who are exploring similar topics such as the impact of excessive internet use and mental health issues that they should use different methodologies which can offer them a better understanding of the topic.

Implementing a mixed method approach which integrates both quantitative and qualitative data can foster higher insight into the statistical presentation of the importance of the relationship between depression among genders and overusing the internet. 

6.2 Reflection (Knowledge and skill developed)

First of all, the research findings helped me in getting an in-depth understanding of mental health in the context of different genders. It improved my understanding of how social norms, preference for the platform and online interaction affect mental health among different genders.

Next, my ability to critically assess current research, find gaps and synthesize knowledge from multiple sources developed during the comprehensive literature review process. This ability is crucial in keeping up with new research and implementing evidence-based approaches in public health treatments.

Next, conducting a systematic review also provided me a wider understanding of research methods, data collection and other research aspects. This knowledge is important in designing and executing significant public health studies while ensuring strength in data interpretation.

Along with this, this research study enhanced my understanding regarding internet use and mental health which improved my awareness of the different ways through which internet behaviour affects the well-being of an individual. This awareness will work significantly for me in addressing mental health concerns in any kind of public health initiative. 

Completing this dissertation has improved my critical thinking skills, allowing me to understand complicated topics like psychological well-being, gender, and internet use.

These abilities will assist me in navigating various public health concerns and developing creative solutions. Furthermore, the process of presenting my research findings in the research has improved my ability to effectively communicate difficult topics.

Clear communication is essential when it comes to delivering public health information to a wide range of audiences, legislators, and stakeholders.  Along with this, as the dissertation highlights the importance of gender-specific approaches in mental health wellbeing approaches, it will help me in designing and implementing personalised suggestions or campaigns that will consider inclusivity as well as efficacy in public health strategies while including gender disparities.

Further, this dissertation finding will improve my understanding of gender-sensitive approaches in mental health initiatives while understanding the different needs and vulnerabilities of different genders in mental health promotion as well as intervention planning.

My expertise in performing systematic reviews and data analysis will also drive decisions based on evidence in the design, implementation, and evaluation of public health applications, ensuring their efficacy and relevance.

Furthermore, my dissertation experience has not only broadened my academic base but has also provided me with the real-world abilities and awareness required to advocate for good changes in public health policies, specifically regarding gender-specific mental health challenges in the age of technology. 

During the project, I also got insight into longitudinal studies which track participants for a longer duration. I understood that it may help me in finding the more casual link between the daily habits of individuals and associated mental health outcomes.

Further, I get to understand that experimental design supports intervention for modifying habits of internet use that can reduce the causal impact of such changes on mental health.

Further, I also get to know that studies which provide direct comparisons between the impact of overusing the internet on mental health for different genders in a single study rather than focusing on the studies which describe information about only one of two aspects is more beneficial. I discovered that replicating research approaches in different geographic or cultural situations helps confirm findings across multiple populations.

Given my experience with this project, I can suggest to future investigators that by accepting these different approaches, future researchers will be able to broaden and deepen their comprehension of the complicated connection between excessive use of the internet and mental wellness among diverse gender categories, offering a broader perspective of this important field of study. 

Overall, during the study competition, I got a better understanding of research methods, approaches, analysis methods, ethical considerations while performing a research study, and different aspects associated with a systematic literature review. Along with this, it provided me useful insight into depression linked to overusing the internet, especially social media. 

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