Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

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Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

Melani Facundo

Written by Melani Facundo

Melani Facundo

Melani Facundo

December 29, 2020 / Read Time 4 minutes

Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

Are you worried that social media is negatively affecting your mental health? You’re not alone. Some experts think as many as one in ten people in the United States are addicted to social media. Some think it’s even more than that.

What effects can social media have on mental health? Is social media only bad for mental health, or does it have some benefits? What do you do if you think you’re addicted to social media?

Here are answers to those questions and more.

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

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    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Social Media and Mental Health What the Research Says

Research into the connection between social media and mental health has only started within the last few years, and there haven't been very many conclusive studies.

That said, preliminary studies do seem to indicate a connection between high levels of social media usage and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Social Media and Mental Health Statistics

While correlation doesn’t equal causation, mental health concerns have skyrocketed along with the popularity of smartphones and social media.

Here are a few statistics related to social media and mental health from the National Institute of Mental Health:

Who's on social media?

  • 97% of 13 to 17-year-olds use social media

  • 86% of 18 to 29-year-olds

  • 80% of people aged 30-49

  • 64% of people aged 50-64

  • one-third of adults over 65

  • 69% of all adults were using social media by 2017

How has mental health fared?

  • From 2005 to 2017, the rate of teenagers reporting symptoms of major depression increased by 52%. From 2009 to 2017, it grew by 63% in adults ages 18 to 25

  • From 2008 to 2017, the rate of those experiencing psychological distress grew 71% in young adults

  • From 2008 to 2017 The rate of suicidal thoughts increased 47%

  • 13% of teenagers report depression and 32% report anxiety

  • 25% of 18 to 25-year-olds report mental illness

  • 20% of people with at least one social media account feel they have to check them at least once every three hours to avoid feeling anxious

  • The lifetime prevalence of any mental disorder among adolescents is 49.5%, meaning nearly half of all adolescents in the U.S. will have some sort of mental health disorder

  • 22.2% of adolescents will suffer from severe mental impairment

Signs that Social Media Is Negatively Impacting Your Mental Health

How can you tell if social media is harming your mental health? Here are some signs that you may have social media addiction:

  • Using social media to cope with problems

  • Anger when forced to use less social media

  • Negative effects at work or school due to spending too much time on social media and not enough time on other tasks

  • Irritability and restlessness when not using social media

  • Thinking about social media anytime you’re not using it

  • Increased use of social media during other activities, like eating or spending time with other people

How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?

Social media can have both positive and negative effects on mental health. It’s not a universally bad thing.

How each person chooses to use social media and the impact is has will vary from person-to-person.

Read: Social Media Addiction

How Is Social Media Bad for Mental Health?

Here are some of the ways that social media can be bad for mental health, especially when it has progressed to an addiction:

  • Cyberbullying 

  • Increased loneliness or isolation

  • Low self-esteem

  • Getting less exercise

  • Worse grades or work quality

  • May cause social anxiety disorder

  • Ignoring in-person relationships

  • Reduced sleep quality

How Is Social Media Good for Mental Health?

Social media isn’t always a bad thing. Here are some ways social media can be good for mental health:

  • Making friends. Sometimes, it’s easier to make friends with people on social media than it is in real life

  • Connecting over a common interest. Do you have hobbies or passions that aren’t shared by people in your “real life?” Social media helps connect people from around the world who have similar interests

  • Sharing ideas and thoughts. Some people struggle to express themselves when faced with people. Social media can make it easier for people to share their thoughts and ideas with less anxiety

  • It’s fun. While there are some things that can make social media less fun, such as cyberbullying, many people enjoy social media as a fun hobby

  • Inspiration. Many people choose to follow accounts that inspire them to reach new goals and try new things, from fitness to travel to cooking, social media can motivate people to try something new

Modifying Your Social Media Use

If you spend a lot of time on social media, you may be looking to cut back or quit social media altogether to improve your mental health and make time for other interests.

Decreasing your use of social media can be difficult. Here are some tips:

  • Delete social media apps from your phone. You’re likely to spend less time on social media sites if you must use your computer.

  • Start a new hobby that doesn’t include technology. Some examples are cooking classes, art, sports, or reading.

  • Leave your phone and computer out of the bedroom. Try doing things before bed that don’t involve screens, like exercising or reading a book.

  • Allow yourself a set amount of time to use social media each day. Use a timer to help you stick to it.

  • Spend more time with friends and family in person, when it’s safe to do so.

  • Turn off your phone during meals, recreational activities, work, and school.

  • Try therapy. When all else fails, a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help you change your thoughts and behaviors to decrease your social media use.

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  3. 3

    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Get Help with Social Media Addiction

If you’re struggling with social media addiction, online therapy from PlushCare may help. For $169 per session, you get a 45-minute virtual session with a licensed therapist and access to our network of doctors.

Not sure if online therapy is right for you? You can book a free 15-minute consultation and talk to an online therapist to see if they’re a good fit. Simply click here to book your free consultation or start your first therapy session today.

Read More About Mental Health


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