Is time spent using social media associated with mental health problems among adolescents?

Bottom Line: Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day using social media may be at higher risk for mental health problems. This observational study included a nationally representative sample of nearly 6,600 U.S. adolescents (ages 12-15) who reported time spent on social media during a typical day and who reported information about mental health problems. After accounting for factors including a history of mental health problems, study authors report that adolescents who used social media more than three hours a day were more likely to report internalizing problems (these can include depression, anxiety and loneliness), as well as symptoms of both internalizing and externalizing (such as aggression and antisocial behavior) problems but not externalizing problems alone compared with adolescents who reported no social media use. Limitations of the study include that time spent on social media and information about internalizing and externalizing problems were self-reported, and other factors not accounted for by study authors may help to explain the results.

Authors: Kira E. Riehm, M.S., Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and coauthors.

(doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.2325)

Editor’s Note: The article includes conflict of interest and funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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Media advisory: To contact corresponding author Kira E. Riehm, M.S., email Caitlin Hoffman at choffman@jhu.edu. The full study and podcast are linked to this news release.

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