Reducing Social Media Use Boosts Mental Health in Youth

A study highlighted in the Psychology of Popular Media journal suggests that young adults can improve their mental health by limiting their social media use. Researchers focused on individuals experiencing emotional distress and found that cutting down screen time to one hour a day over three weeks decreased depression , anxiety, and the fear of missing out.

During adolescence and young adulthood, individuals go through major social, physical, and emotional changes. This makes them particularly susceptible to mental health issues. Statistics include that about 20% of young people are diagnosed with a mental disorder annually, with depression and anxiety being most common. This vulnerability was notably evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw significant increases in depression and anxiety among Canadian youth.

With over 81% of Canadian youth spending at least two hours daily on social media, concerns have grown about its impact on their psychological well being. Previous studies have pointed to a link between extensive social media use and deteriorated mental health symptoms. However these studies often relied on self-reported data and did not explore causality.

To address these limitations, researchers at Carleton university conducted an experiment with 220 undergraduate students who were regular social media users. The study began with a week of usual social media activity followed by three weeks where participants were divided into two groups. The intervention group was asked to limit their social media use to no more than one hour ago per day. Compliance was monitored through daily screenshots of their social media usage.

The findings were significant. Participants who reduced their social media use reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. They also experienced less fear of missing out and increased their nightly sleep by about 30 minutes. The experiment showed that even a slight reduction in social media time could lead to notable improvements in mental health.

The study only lasted three weeks, and it's unclear if these benefits would continue over a longer period. Furthermore, the results depended on self-reported data, which might not always accurately reflect actual usage. Despite these limitations, the research offers promising insights into how reducing social media use can positively affect mental health. Future studies might explore what activities replace reduced screen time and whether these activities contribute further to improving mental health.

Image: DIW-Aigen

Read next: New Google Research Claims An Alarming Rise In Image Disinformation Is Taking Place And AI Is To Blame
Previous Post Next Post