Long-term use of social media websites did not negatively affect mental health, according to an 8-year longitudinal study published in Computers in Human Behavior.
The study recruited 500 participants (51.6% girls) from an ongoing, longitudinal study of inner family life involving families with children aged between 10 years and 13 years.
Participants responded during each of the eight waves regarding how many hours they spent per day using social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and others. Responses varied from 1 hour to more than 8 hours per day. Depression in adolescents was evaluated using the 20-item, self-reported Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children with responses ranging from low to high feelings of depression. Anxiety was measured using the six-item generalized anxiety disorder subscale from the Spence Child Anxiety Inventory where results raged from no feelings of anxiety to always feeling anxiety.
Data showed that social media use did not seem to be a significant risk factor for development in depression and anxiety. In the 8-year study, no associations between time spent on social media and the outcome of participants’ mental health were recorded.
The investigators wrote that future research should examine the context and content centered around social media and consider other factors that might offer an explanation in the increase in mental health issues during adolescence and emerging adulthood. This future research could gain a more clinically based and professional way of assessing mental health and could examine lifetime impacts of social media use.
“If they increased their social media time, would it make them more depressed? Also, if they decreased their social media time, were they less depressed? The answer is no,” Coyne said in the release. “We found that time spent on social media was not what was impacting anxiety or depression.” –by Erin T. Welsh
Disclosure: Coyne reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.