Social Media and Mental Health

Although social media has been instrumental in connecting friends and family virtually, its use has also posed issues for many people. As the use of social media increases for people of all ages, a connection between social media and mental health has become evident.

Social Media Use

Last year, the average individual in the US spent between three and four hours each day on social media. In fact, the US has one of the highest social network penetration rates in the world. Over 223 million Americans posted photos, liked or commented on content, or sent private messages in 2020. Over 70% of the US population has a social media account. The number of social media users in the US is expected to increase to 243 million by 2025.

Addiction to Social Media

The use of social media has been described as being a more addictive activity than the use of alcohol or tobacco. This theory may stem from the fact that, typically, social networks are available without restriction. They are accessible from any electronic device and are socially acceptable, if not preferable in many cases, as a form of contact with others.

There is science behind the thought that social media is addictive. These interactions, and the neurotransmitters released during the interaction, can be among an individual’s most fulfilling stimuli. Sean Parker, former president of Facebook, described the platform as a “social validation feedback loop.” He stated that the “like” button had been intentionally introduced on the site to give “a little dopamine hit” and to encourage people to continue to use the platform.

Research conducted in early 2021 of more than 1,000 individuals revealed that 40% of social media users said they would give up their car or their pet before they would give up their social network accounts. Over 70% of the survey participants stated they would not take anything less than $10,000 in exchange for permanently giving up their social media.

Mental Health Effects

Evidence is growing that social media use is adversely affecting mental health. Increased reports of depression and anxiety accompany lower self-esteem and body image concerns, as well as a decrease in sleep quality, particularly among younger users.

Young adults and teenagers who spend a significant amount of time on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have a substantially higher rate of depression, from 13% to 66% in many recent studies. In a 2017 study of over half a million young people who were 8th through 12th graders, it was discovered that high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33% over a period of 5 years. The suicide rate for girls had increased by 65%.

There is a link between social media and mental health that is found in the increased availability and use of smartphones. Introduced in 2007, smartphones were in the hands of 92% of teens and young adults by 2015. The rise in depressive symptoms follows the same pattern, with a sharp spike in reports of college students seeking help at their institution’s counseling center, primarily for depression and anxiety.

The Correlation Between Social Media and Mental Health

Many researchers think that there is a correlation, rather than a direct cause, between mental health issues and social media use. The number of smartphones has increased along with the rates of depression and anxiety among smartphone users. This means that more people are using their electronic devices to connect and communicate, rather than doing so in person.

Younger people, especially, tend to use social media as a primary means of communication. These connections are less emotionally satisfying and can leave the individual feeling socially isolated. They may compare themselves to others they see on posts throughout the day and feel they do not measure up. They are not getting much in return that makes them feel good about themselves.

Spending time online also seriously reduces the amount of time spent on physical activity. People who spend three to four hours on their smartphones, posting and checking other people’s posts, do not tend to go outside and get fresh air or exercise. They may also not spend time learning new skills or developing their talents, which can also lead to a decline in the state of their mental health.

Mental Health and Addiction Help in Tennessee

If you are experiencing a mental health issue, we can help. At our residential, long-term and outpatient treatment centers, Cumberland Heights provides top-notch mental health care to those dealing with mental illnesses, especially those co-occurring with substance use disorders. Our dedicated staff members will walk with you every step of the way on your journey to recovery, helping you to rewrite your story.

At Cumberland Heights, we’ve been changing lives since 1966. To learn more about our services, contact the Cumberland Heights admissions team.