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A meta-analysis of the association between adolescent social media use and depressive symptoms

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 01:41 authored by EJ Ivie, A Pettitt, Louis MosesLouis Moses, NB Allen
Background: The association of adolescent social media use with mental health symptoms, especially depression, has recently attracted a great deal of interest in public media as well as the scientific community. Some studies have cited statistically significant associations between adolescent social media use and depression and have proposed that parents must regulate their adolescents’ social media use in order to protect their mental health. Method: In order to rigorously assess the size of the effect that has been reported in the current scientific literature, we conducted a meta-analysis of studies that measured the association between social media use specifically and depressive symptoms amongst early- to mid- adolescents (11-18 years-old). We searched Psychnet, PubMed, and Web of Science with the following terms: online social networks, social media, internet usage, facebook, twitter, instagram, myspace, snapchat, and depression. Results: We found a small but significant positive correlation (k=12 studies, r=.11, p<.01) between adolescent social media use and depressive symptoms. There was also high heterogeneity (I2=95.22%) indicating substantial variation among studies. Conclusions: High heterogeneity along with the small overall effect size observed in the relationship between self-reported social media use and depressive symptoms suggests that other factors are likely to act as significant moderators of the relationship. We suggest that future research should be focused on understanding which types of use may be harmful (or helpful) to mental health, rather than focusing on overall use measures that likely reflect highly heterogeneous exposures.


Preferred citation

Ivie, E. J., Pettitt, A., Moses, L. J. & Allen, N. B. (2020). A meta-analysis of the association between adolescent social media use and depressive symptoms. Journal of Affective Disorders, 275, 165-174.

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Journal of Affective Disorders



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Elsevier BV

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Online publication date