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Is social media really causing mental health issues?

28 Jan 2019

It is not clear to me how social media use is connected to mental health issues. This review article, published in 2018, looked at nine studies published in the English language since 2014. They were all cross-sectional survey studies. Cross-sectional means that while they may find associations between phenomena, they have nothing to say on the causal link between phenomena. Is social media really causing mental health issues, or are mental-heath-issue-sufferers simply more prone to problematic social media use? Survey studies are notoriously hard to do right, due to the massive risk of reporting bias. Nevertheless, this review concludes that there indeed is an association between mental health issues (depression and anxiety above all) and problematic use of social media. Maybe it is the social comparison that is at the heart of the problem? It would be very interesting to see randomized trials that investigates the effects of limiting social media use on depression and anxiety, like this one.