It’s Official – We Really Need Help With Social Media Addiction

Researchers have a seriously stark warning for you.
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Social media is like most things: there are many good and bad aspects about it and no matter how much good you think it does, too much of it isn’t good for you.

At least, this is what researchers at the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health have found this month.

While we knew until now that limiting social media use can be good for depression and anxiety disorders, researchers have now found that receiving therapy for problematic social media use can be effective in improving the mental wellbeing of people with depression.

What is defined as ‘problematic’ social media use?

Well, the researchers defined problematic use as being when a person’s preoccupation with social media results in a distraction from their primary tasks, and the neglect of responsibilities in other aspects of their life.

Anecdotally, I know for myself that when I have been in a bad place mentally – for whatever reason – I have found myself endlessly scrolling, aware that it’s making me feel worse but not being able to stop and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was common with other people who have difficulties with their mental health.

In fact, 2 in 5 UK adults believe that they spend too much time on social media and 1 in 6 adults in the UK has depression. The relationship between the two makes a lot of sense, really.

To address this, and help people’s mental health, researchers have developed and evaluated social media interventions. While limiting or entirely abstaining from social media have been used, the researchers found that when this is done alongside therapy based techniques such as CBT, there is greater success in recovery.

Therapy-based interventions were the most effective

Following an analysis of 23 studies with participants from across the globe between 2004 and 2022, the researchers found that in 39% of studies, social media use interventions improved mental wellbeing. Additionally, these improvements were most notable in people with depression with 70% of studies showing a significant improvement in depression following the intervention.

However, it was really therapy-based interventions that stood out with an 83% improvement in mental wellbeing, compared to 20% of studies finding an improvement where social media use was limited and 25% where it was given up entirely.

Researchers recommend social media intervention for people with depression

Study author and GP Dr Patricia Schartau said,: “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.”

Researchers added that future research is needed to explore who may be most affected by problematic social media use to enable the development of more targeted interventions to improve mental wellbeing.

If you’re wondering how much time you should be spending on social media, researchers found that around 30 minutes a day is healthiest – which we’re sure you’re adhering to, right?