new paper : Social Media and Change in Psychological Distress Over Time

new paper : Social Media and Change in Psychological Distress Over Time

I am excited to share my new paper on “Social Media and Change in Psychological Distress Over Time“.

Based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the longest-running, longitudinal, household, panel survey in the world, I find that home internet and social media use are associated with reduced psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, over time. From one year to the next, social media users are 63% more likely to avoid the serious psychological distress associated with major depression and anxiety disorders. But… psychological distress is contagious on social media. The data includes surveys with siblings, parents, grandparents, aunt, uncles, grandparents, etc., and if their mental health declines over time, so does yours, but only if you are both on social media. Works in the other direction too. Best case, social media use reduces the risk of serious psychological distress, worst case, it has a trivial relationship.


This article tests the relationship between information and communication technologies (ICT), such as the Internet, cell phones, and social media, and change over time in psychological distress (PD) and risk of serious psychological distress (SPD) associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Using a longitudinal panel design, survey data from a representative sample of American adults, findings revealed that home Internet and social network site (SNS) use are associated with decreased PD over time. Having extended family who are also Internet users further decreases PD. PD increased or decreased in relation to change in the PD of extended family who also use SNSs. For most people, ICT substantively reduce PD; in rare cases, an extreme spike in PD of extended family also on SNSs, there was a trivial increase to the risk of SPD. PD did not change when extended family not on social media experienced a change in their PD.

And a nice overview article by my College on “Depression Is Contagious: How Social Media Really Affects Your Mental Health