Posted on Aug 11, 2023, 2 p.m.
Receiving therapy for problematic social media use (addiction) can also be effective in improving the mental well-being of those with depression, according to a meta-analysis study led by University College London that was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
Problematic use occurs when a person is preoccupied with social media and it becomes a distraction from their primary/daily tasks resulting in the neglect of responsibilities in other aspects of their life outside of being on the internet, which can lead to poor mental well-being including anxiety, stress, loneliness, and depression.
To address this issue social media use interventions have been developed and evaluated by researchers, and the techniques can include abstaining from and/or limiting the use of social media alongside therapy-based techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
For this study, 23 studies were analyzed that involved participants from around the world between 2004-2022, finding that in 39% of the studies, social media use interventions helped to improve participants’ mental well-being. Most notably improvements were seen in depression/low mood, with 70% of the studies showing significant improvements in depression following social media use interventions. Therapy-based interventions were most effective, improving mental well-being in 83% of the studies compared to 20% of the studies seeing improvement with limiting use and 25% of the studies using abstinence.
“Mental health issues are on the rise, as is the number of people who use social media,” Lead author, Dr Ruth Plackett (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health).“Health and care professionals should be aware that reducing time spent on social media is unlikely to benefit mental well-being on its own. “Instead, taking a more therapy-based approach and reflecting on how and why we are interacting with social media and managing those behaviours could help improve mental health.”
“As primary care physicians, we should proactively explore social media use and its effects on mental health in patients who present with anxiety and/or low mood in order to give those patients the opportunity to benefit from treatment including some of the more effective interventions outlined in our review,” adds Study author and GP Dr Patricia Schartau (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health).
An estimated 4.59 billion people used at least one form of social media during 2022, and the way people communicate, form relationships, and perceive each other has dramatically changed. Some studies suggest that social media can potentially provide users with increased support, however, much more evidence links social media with depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems, particularly among younger people.
The researchers hope that their findings help to develop guidelines and recommendations on how to help manage problematic social media use. But they note that further research is needed to investigate who may benefit the most from these interventions.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
Content may be edited for style and length.
References/Sources/Materials provided by: