Increased social media use not correlated with increased anxiety


Courtesy Photo/ The Bison

The journal ‘Computers in Human Behavior’ published the results from an eight-year long study that indicates time spent on social media is not linked to levels of anxiety and depression.

Zoe Charles

Assistant News Editor

Oct. 22, 2019 the results of an eight-year-long study were published in Computers in Human Behavior.

The research, led by professor of family life at Brigham Young University Sarah Coyne, found that the amount of time spent on social media is not related to levels of anxiety or depression in teenagers.

The find is surprising in light of the 62.5 percent raise of time spent on social media by teenagers since 2012, which was theorized to be a significant factor in increased anxiety and depression rates among teenagers.

“We spent eight years trying to re- ally understand the relationship be- tween time spent on social media and depression for developing teenagers; if they increased their social media time, would it make them more de- pressed?” Coyne said in an interview with

“Also, if they decreased their social media time, were they less de- pressed? The answer is no. We found that time spent on social media was not what was impacting anxiety or depression.”

However, while the time spent on social media may not be directly linked to levels of anxiety and depression in teenagers, there is no doubt that a link between social media and mental health exists.

According to an article on very-, “Researchers are just beginning to establish a link between depression and social media. While they have not actually discovered a cause and effect relationship between social media and depression, they have discovered that social media use can be associated with an intensification of the symptoms of depression, including a decrease in social activity and an increase in loneliness.”

While there is a certain irony associated with social media leading to very unsocial habits, the science be- hind the power of these applications provides no laughing matter.

For example, a study conducted by researchers at the UCLA Brain Map- ping Center concluded that “certain regions of teen brains became activated by ‘likes’ on social media, some- times causing them to want to use social media more.

Researchers used an fMRI scanner to image the brains of 32 teenagers as they used a fictitious social media app resembling Instagram. The brain scans revealed that in addition to a number of regions, the nucleus accumbens, part of the brain’s reward circuitry, was especially active when they saw a large number of likes on their own photos.”

Very Well Family also noted the significance of this study.

“According to researchers, this area of the brain is the same region that responds when we see pictures of people we love or when we win money. What’s more, researchers say that this reward region of the brain is particularly sensitive during the teen years, which could explain why teens are so drawn to social media,” Very Well Family’s website read.

Social media addiction is a growing problem among teenager in the U.S.

Social Media addiction and social anxiety disorder are strongly correlated and recent studies indicate that social media addictions can cause social anxiety disorder,” according to an article on

“Positive feedback in the form of likes or followers is a reward that stimulates the brain and rewards it with (highly addictive) dopamine. Social anxiety related to social media addiction has serious consequences and has even lead to the disruption of sleep, inability to manage weight, and a loss of interest in work or school among adolescents,”

While all teenagers are at risk for mental health consequences relating to social media, psychcongress. com warns “[t]eenage girls are twice as likely as boys to show depressive symptoms linked to social media use – mainly due to online harassment and disturbed sleep, as well as poor body image and lower self-esteem, researchers have found.”

Levels of online harassment experienced were also found to be linked to gender.

“When the researchers looked at underlying processes that might be linked with social media use and depression, they found 40 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys had experience of online harassment or cyberbullying.

Disrupted sleep was reported by 40 percent of girls compared with 28 percent of boys,” posted.

Teenagers already have unusual sleep cycles, which can be exacerbated by the demands of high school. Social media may be making this problem worse.

According to, “A study published in the Journal of Youth Studies surveyed 900 teens between the ages of 12 and 15 about their social media use and its impact on sleep. What they found was that one-fifth of the teens said they “al- most always” wake up during

the night and log in to social media. The study also revealed that girls were significantly more likely than boys to wake up and check social media on their phones.”

Lack of sleep reduces quality of life in all areas.

“In addition to reporting feeling tired all the time, [teenagers with disrupted sleep patterns] also report- ed being less happy on average than teens whose sleep was not disturbed by social media,” according to very-

“What’s more, teens need more sleep than adults do, so logging into social media in the middle of the night can be detrimental to their physical health as well. For instance, aside from feeling tired and irritable, lack of sleep can lower the immune system and make it more likely for a teen to get sick. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression, please consider reaching out to OBU’s Kempt MFT Clinic as a free resource. The clinic’s phone number is 405.585.4530


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