Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Social media use is central to the lives of emerging adults, but the implications of social media use on psychological adjustment are not well understood. The current study aimed to examine the impact of time spent using social media on anxiety symptoms and severity in emerging adults. Using a web-based recruitment technique, we collected survey information on social media use and anxiety symptoms and related impairment in a nationally representative sample of 563 emerging adults from the U.S. (18-22 years-old; 50.2% female; 63.3% Non-Hispanic White). Participants self-reported the amount of time they spent using various social media sites on an average day, and responded to anxiety questionnaires RESULTS: Hierarchical regression revealed that more time spent using social media was significantly associated with greater symptoms of dispositional anxiety (B=0.74, 95% CI=0.59-0.90, p<0.001), but was unrelated to recent anxiety-related impairment (B=0.06, 95% CI=0.00-0.12, p=0.051), controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education level. Logistic regression also revealed that more daily social media use was significantly associated with a greater likelihood of participants scoring above the anxiety severity clinical cut-off indicating a probable anxiety disorder (AOR=1.032, 95% CI=1.004-1.062, p=0.028). Study limitations include the cross-sectional design and reliance on self-report questionnaires. Given the ubiquity of social media among emerging adults, who are also at high risk for anxiety disorders, the positive association between social media use and anxiety has important implications for clinicians. Gaining a more nuanced understanding of this relationship will help to inform novel approaches to anxiety treatment.

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