LGBTQ youth experience mental health benefits from social media break
LGBTQ youth appeared to experience negative mental health outcomes associated with frequent social media use, according to results of a survey study published in Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health.
A social media break appeared to alleviate these effects, the results suggested.
“The relationship between social media use and well-being among the general adolescent population has received notable research attention, but many LGBTQ youth face distinct challenges accessing identity-related social support and information in their home environments, which may influence their social media motivations, experiences and outcomes,” Traci K. Gillig, PhD, assistant professor of the department of strategic communication at Washington State University, told Healio Psychiatry. “This longitudinal study sought to shed light on LGBTQ youth’s psychological outcomes over time, in the context of their everyday social media patterns.”
Results of prior studies suggested elevated rates of online engagement among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth compared with their peers; however, research is incomplete regarding the longitudinal relationship between social media use and depressive symptoms among LGBTQ youth.
In the current longitudinal analysis, Gillig sought to address this research gap by surveying 214 LGBTQ youth aged 12 years to 18 years before and after they attended a social media-free summer leadership camp tailored specifically to this population. Survey questions evaluated the link between attendees’ social media use before camp and changes in their depressive symptoms during the camp.
Results showed participants’ average daily social media use before attending the camp was approximately 4 hours, and their depressive symptoms were moderate. After attending the camp, depressive symptoms appeared to be reduced by about 50%. Those with the highest levels of social media use before camp were more likely to exhibit a more wide-ranging reduction in depressive symptoms, which may be attributable to the social, affirming camp setting that may have fostered needed social interaction among the high-volume users, according to Gillig.
“High frequency of social media use can be a warning sign that the needs of a young person are not being met in their home environment and that they may benefit from a ‘social media break’ in an affirming context,” Gillig told Healio Psychiatry. “The LGBTQ youth in this study attended the LGBTQ summer camp Brave Trails, and such social media-free programming is one potential route for improving youth mental health.”