Social media for more than 3 hours could raise teens' risk of internalising their problems

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Teens who spend more than three hours a day on social media may be at a higher risk of mental health problems, especially internalising their problems, according to a study of over 6,500 US teens. The researchers asked teens to report on how much time they spent on social media in a typical day as well as mental health symptoms. They found that social media use could potentially be associated with increased risk of internalising and externalising problems, even after adjusting for demographics, past alcohol and marijuana use, and mental health history. The researchers say there might be many reasons for this, including poor sleep or increased exposure to cyberbullying, but say simply cutting off social media won't provide a quick fix as it also facilitates communication and a sense of belonging.

Journal/conference: JAMA Psychiatry

DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.2325

Organisation/s: Johns Hopkins University, USA

Funder: Ms Riehm was supported by grant 5T32MH014592-39 from the National Institute of Mental Health Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program (Peter Zandi, principal investigator) and by a doctoral foreign study award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr Feder was supported by National Research and Service Award F31DA044699 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.Ms Tormohlen was supported by grant T32DA007292 (Renee M. Johnson, principal investigator), Dr Young was supported by grant K23DA044288, and Dr Pacek was supported by grant K01DA043413 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Media Release

From: JAMA
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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