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Department of Psychology PhD defense: Ingibjörg Eva Þórisdóttir

Social Media Use and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depressed Mood among Adolescents

  • 16.6.2020, 16:00 - 17:30, Háskólinn í Reykjavík

Ingibjörg Eva Þórisdóttir will present and discuss her PhD thesis Tuesday, June 16 at 16:00. The event will be held on-site at Reykjavik University, Room V101, and will also be streamed online. The presentation is in English and open to the public.

Link to online stream

Title: Social Media Use and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depressed Mood among Adolescents

Author: Ingibjörg Eva Þórisdóttir
Supervisor: Dr. Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir
Date and Time: June 16 at 16:00
Location: Link to online stream  

Abstract

Many studies have found a relationship between social media use and symptoms of emotional distress, such as depression and anxiety. However, the existing research lacks longitudinal analyses, a thorough understanding of the possible mechanisms involved in this relationship, and if they appear to be similar for girls and boys.

This Thesis extends previous research by examining longitudinally the association between social media use and symptoms of emotional distress among a cohort of adolescents, as well as the possible mechanisms involved. The specific aims of the Thesis were to 1) examine changes in symptoms of anxiety and depressed mood among male and female adolescents in Iceland from 2006 to 2016; 2) examine longitudinally the association between time spent on social media and symptoms of anxiety and depressed mood; 3) examine active and passive social media use and how different types of social media use relate to symptoms of anxiety and depressed mood.

Cross-sectional data among participants in the eighth to tenth grade from compulsory schools in Iceland and longitudinal data from a cohort of adolescents born in 2004 were used in the analyses. Data were analyzed using analysis of variance, linear regression, binomial logistic regression, hierarchical linear regression, and mixed model design.

When looking at patterns based on cut-off scores, the proportion of adolescents reporting high symptoms of depressed mood increased over time by 1.6% and 6.8% for girls and boys, respectively, and high symptoms of anxiety increased by 1.3% for boys and 8.6% for girls. Mean level change in these symptoms significantly increased for girls, but symptoms of anxiety decreased for boys. The interaction between time spent on social media and time was significant for symptoms of depressed mood and physical symptoms of anxiety, and the relationship between time spent on social media and all three psychological distress outcomes was significantly stronger for girls than boys. Passive social media use related to greater symptoms of emotional distress and active social media use to fewer symptoms. After adding known risk and protective factors to the analyses, only passive social media use remained significant for emotional distress. Time spent on social media had a stronger relationship with emotional distress for girls than boys.

Overall, the findings reveal that there is an increase in symptoms of emotional distress among adolescents and that social media use is associated with these symptoms. It is important to examine further the different types of social media use instead of focusing on time spent on social media alone, as well as taking individual factors and gender into account. A deeper understanding of the possible risks and benefits involved in social media use, however, will be necessary if social media is to play a greater role in fostering healthy relationships and connections. 



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