Over the last 20 years, social media has risen from relative obscurity to become a fully accepted and integrated part of everyday life. However, despite social media’s ubiquity, the research on how it affects mental health remains inconclusive.
So far, most research investigating the effects of social media on mental health has focused on the potential negative aspects.
For instance, a 2019 study involving 6,595 teenagers from the United States concludes that those who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media may have a higher risk of mental health problems than those who do not.
But the degree to which social media actually harms mental health is debatable. A recent review, available as a preprint, found that most studies investigating the link between social media and mental health demonstrate “weak” or “inconsistent” associations.
Another review found that while there may be a small negative association between social media use and mental health, the link is complex and depends on exactly how researchers define mental health and social media use.
Meanwhile, other research suggests that social media may even benefit mental health, especially for people belonging to LGBTQIA+ communities and those living with mental health conditions.
These conflicting findings make it challenging to navigate the research investigating the effects of social media on mental health and how best to use social media. With this in mind,Medical News Today sought the input of seven psychology experts at the intersection of social media and mental health.