Although social networking services (SNSs) have become popular among young people, problematic SNS use has also increased. However, little is known about SNS addiction and its association with SNS use patterns and mental health status.
This study aims to test the mediating role of SNS addiction between SNS use patterns and mental health status among Chinese university students in Hong Kong (HK).
An online cross-sectional survey was conducted using a convenience sampling method. In total, 533 university students (323 [66.9%] female, mean age [SD]=20.87 [2.68] years) were recruited from February to March 2019. Multiple linear regression was used to assess the association between SNS use and SNS addiction. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was performed to examine the pathways and associations among SNS use, SNS addiction, psychosocial status, and mental health status (including anxiety and depressive symptoms).
A longer time spent on SNSs per day (>3 h), a longer time spent on each SNS access (≥31 min), a higher frequency of SNS access (≤every 30 min), a longer duration of SNS use before sleeping (≥61 min), and a shorter duration from waking to first SNS use (≤5 min) were significantly associated with a higher level of SNS addiction (adjusted beta [aβ]=6.03, 95% CI 4.66-7.40; aβ=4.99, 95% CI 3.14-6.83; aβ=5.89, 95% CI 4.14-7.64; aβ=5.92, 95% CI 4.19-7.65; and aβ=3.27, 95% CI 1.73-4.82, respectively). SEM showed a significant mediating effect of SNS addiction in the relationship between SNS use and psychosocial status, and mental health status, including an indirect effect (β=0.63, 95% CI 0.37-0.93) and the total effect (β=0.44, 95% CI 0.19-0.72), while the direct effect was insignificant (β=–0.19, 95% CI –0.49 to 0.08).
SNS use patterns were associated with SNS addiction, and SNS addiction mediated the associations between SNS use, psychosocial status, and mental health status of Chinese university students in HK. The findings suggest that screening for and addressing excessive SNS use are needed to prevent SNS addiction and mental distress among young people.