Social Media and Mental Health

Science Fields

A recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior offers a fresh perspective regarding the use of social media among young adults. According to Professor Sarah Coyne and colleagues from Brigham Young University, screen time does not directly lead to an increase in anxiety and depression in youth. 

For this study, the researchers worked with 500 people between the ages of 13 – 20. The young participants completed questionnaires once a year for eight years. Prof. Coyne and colleagues asked the participants how much time they spent on social media sites on a typical day to monitor daily screen time. Moreover, the researchers measured anxiety and depression symptoms using questionnaires with different scales. The results were analyzed on an individual basis. 

The study results suggested an increase in screen time over an eight-year period. Time spent on social media went up from 31-60 minutes to about two hours per day as the participants stepped into young adulthood. However, the increase in social media use did not predict future mental health. In fact, there was no change in anxiety and depression scores one year later.  

Coyne argues that we should move beyond the screen time debate and take a closer look at how we are using social media. 

Here are some tips to use social media in a healthy way:

  • Remember that the images and stories shared on social media do not exactly reflect reality. You can hit that unfollow button for accounts that impact you in a negative way. 
  • The grass is always greener on the other side. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to other people. If you are constantly admiring the lives of celebrities on social media and the comparison is getting you down, use social media to connect with people you can relate to. 
  • Completely unplug from social media sites. We do not really feel the hold social media has on us until we remove it from our lives. You do not have to delete your account either. Simply take a break by freezing your account for a while. You can always hop back online.

When you go to your favorite social media site, remember that you are in control of the way you use it. You can choose to engage with content that adds meaning and value to your life instead of that which drains your energy.


  • 1. Coyne, M. S., Rogers, A. A., Zurcher, D. J., Stockdale, L., & Booth, M. (2019). Does time spent using social media impact mental health?: An eight year longitudinal study. Computers in Human Behavior, 106160 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2019.106160
  • 2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191022174406.htm