Excessive social media use is not only a risk factor for anxiety, depression, and psychological distress in teens and young adults, but also poor sleep quality.

A literature review to be published in Sleep Medicine examines the relationship between social media use, sleep quality, and mental health. Better understanding of these relationships can inform health policies and health improvement.

The researchers searched MEDLINE, PsychInfo, EMBASE, and Scopus electronic databases. They included studies that reported on social media use, sleep quality, and common mental health conditions using validated scales. Also included were studies that used participants aged 12 to 30 to make sure they hit their targeted age group: 16 to 25. A total of 33 studies met the criteria.

The researchers found significant relationships between social media use and poor mental health. The studies reviewed assessed internet use, mobile phone use, and general social media use. One study focused on Facebook addiction.


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Six cross-sectional studies included sleep as a mediator for associations between social media use and mental health. Five cohort studies focused on social media use as a risk factor for sleep disturbance. The reviewed studies also reported significant links between poor sleep and poor mental health outcomes.

Limitations of this literature review include the interchangeable use of the terms “youth,” “young adult,” and “adolescent.” The review emphasized younger populations to the exclusion of more general observations.

“Social media use can contribute directly to poorer mental health outcomes, or indirectly through poorer sleep,” the researchers concluded. “The directionality and strength of such associations should be further elucidated using prospective cohort studies with representative youth samples. These findings may have public health implications given the widespread use of social media, the high prevalence of sleep problems, and increasing burden of mental health disorders in current societies.”

Reference

Alonzo R, Hussain J, Stranges S, Anderson KK. Interplay between social media use, sleep quality, and mental health in youth: A systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. Volume 56, April 2021, 101414. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2020.101414