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Browsing by Author "Kaarento, Vilja"

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  • Kaarento, Vilja (2019)
    Aims of the study In recent years, social media use has increased among young people. Researchers have been concerned about a possible negative influence of social media use to young peoples’ mental health. Previous studies have found evidence of a cross-sectional association between social media use and mental distress, however only few longitudinal studies have been published so far. Thus, definite conclusions about the direction of the possible association cannot be made. Further, the longitudinal association has not been studied separately in men and women, even though there is some evidence of gender differences. The aim of this study is to observe the association between social media use and mental distress both ways over a period of one year among young people, considering men and women separately. Methods The sample in this study (n=9967) consisted of young people between the ages of 16 and 25 who participated in a British survey “Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study” (2011-2015). Mental distress was assessed with the GHQ-12 questionnaire and social media use with the question “How many hours do you spend chatting or interacting with friends through social websites on an average weekday?” The survey was filled out once a year. The study was conducted with a repeated measurements method by using multilevel modeling and utilizing data from five different time points. The associations were first examined cross-sectionally and then longitudinally. Linear regression analyses and (ordinal) logistic regression analyses were used as the main statistical methods. Results and conclusions The social media use and mental distress of young people had a cross-sectional association in both men and women. Frequent use of social media (over 7h per day) predicted higher mental distress in a longitudinal setting, however only in women. There was no conclusive influence of mental distress on social media use in a longitudinal setting among neither sex. However, the results indicated that this kind of association might be more likely in men. All observed effect sizes were small, which can be due to the study design, which did not consider the different social media content, usage style or personality-related factors. Thus, these factors could have had an impact on the strength of the associations in question. In the light of these findings, social media use does not appear as harmful to young peoples’ mental health as previously assumed.