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      Social Media Use and Adolescent Mental Health: Findings From the UK Millennium Cohort Study


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          Evidence suggests social media use is associated with mental health in young people but underlying processes are not well understood. This paper i) assesses whether social media use is associated with adolescents' depressive symptoms, and ii) investigates multiple potential explanatory pathways via online harassment, sleep, self-esteem and body image.


          We used population based data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study on 10,904 14 year olds. Multivariate regression and path models were used to examine associations between social media use and depressive symptoms.


          The magnitude of association between social media use and depressive symptoms was larger for girls than for boys. Compared with 1–3 h of daily use: 3 to < 5 h 26% increase in scores vs 21%; ≥ 5 h 50% vs 35% for girls and boys respectively. Greater social media use related to online harassment, poor sleep, low self-esteem and poor body image; in turn these related to higher depressive symptom scores. Multiple potential intervening pathways were apparent, for example: greater hours social media use related to body weight dissatisfaction (≥ 5 h 31% more likely to be dissatisfied), which in turn linked to depressive symptom scores directly (body dissatisfaction 15% higher depressive symptom scores) and indirectly via self-esteem.


          Our findings highlight the potential pitfalls of lengthy social media use for young people's mental health. Findings are highly relevant for the development of guidelines for the safe use of social media and calls on industry to more tightly regulate hours of social media use.


          Economic and Social Research Council.

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          Most cited references 16

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          Following you home from school: A critical review and synthesis of research on cyberbullying victimization

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            Electronic media use and sleep in school-aged children and adolescents: A review.

            Electronic media have often been considered to have a negative impact on the sleep of children and adolescents, but there are no comprehensive reviews of research in this area. The present study identified 36 papers that have investigated the relationship between sleep and electronic media in school-aged children and adolescents, including television viewing, use of computers, electronic gaming, and/or the internet, mobile telephones, and music. Many variables have been investigated across these studies, although delayed bedtime and shorter total sleep time have been found to be most consistently related to media use. A model of the mechanisms by which media use may affect sleep is presented and discussed as a vehicle for future research. Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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              Evidence for the validity of a sleep habits survey for adolescents.

              To examine the validity of self-reported survey estimates of sleep patterns in adolescents through a comparison of retrospective survey descriptions of usual school- and weekend-night sleep habits with diary-reported sleep patterns and actigraphically estimated sleep behaviors over a subsequent week. High school students completed a Sleep Habits Survey about the previous 2 weeks and then wore an actigraph (AMI, Ardsley, NY) for 8 days while keeping a daily sleep diary. Matched-pair t tests assessed average differences between survey and diary reports and between survey and actigraph estimates. Pearson correlations assessed the extent to which survey reports were in agreement with diary reports and actigraphy estimates. 302 high school students (196 girls, 106 boys) in grades 9-12 from five high schools. School-night survey total sleep times and wake times did not differ from sleep amounts reported in the diary or estimated by actigraphy; survey bedtimes were slightly earlier. On weekends, survey total sleep times and wake times were longer and later, respectively, than estimated with actigraphy and reported on diaries. Moreover, school- and weekend-night survey variables were significantly correlated both with diary and actigraphy variables. Strengths of the associations were consistently greater for school-night variables than the corresponding weekend-night variables. The findings support the validity of the Sleep Habits Survey estimates in comparison with diary and actigraphy. Strengths and limitations for survey measures of high school students' usual sleep/wake patterns are discussed.

                Author and article information

                04 January 2019
                December 2018
                04 January 2019
                : 6
                : 59-68
                [a ]Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HB, United Kingdom
                [b ]Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. y.kelly@ 123456ucl.ac.uk
                © 2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

                Research Paper


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