One in Three Americans Worry About Social Media’s Impact on Mental Health Nearly Half Say It Has Hurt Society at Large
Twenty-five years after the website Sixdegrees.com began a revolution in the way people used the internet, a third of Americans say social media does more harm than good to their mental health. Nearly half said that social media has hurt society at large and 42 percent said it has hurt political discourse. This is according to the results of the American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s February 2022 Healthy Minds Monthly* a poll conducted by Morning Consult, fielded Jan. 19-20, 2022, among a nationally representative sample of 2,210 adults.
The responses were slightly more positive when adults who indicated they use social media were asked how they personally felt while using it. Eighty percent of social media users said they felt interested while using social media, 72% felt connected and 72% said they felt happy, versus 26% who said they felt helpless or jealous (22%).
“Twenty-five years into what almost feels like a giant psychological experiment, most Americans are interacting with social media daily, and many are concerned about its effects on mental health and society,” said APA President Vivian Pender, M.D. “Volumes have been written on its various impacts. The bottom line is that we know enough to say that when things get overwhelming, there are simple steps we can all be aware of and take to manage our usage.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many adults who indicated they use social media reported experiencing the positive side of it—80% of social media users say they used it to connect with family and friends, and 76% used it for entertainment. In general, they were also far less worried about their own usage of social media or their children’s. For instance, they said social media has helped (31%) or has had no impact (49%) on their relationships with friends and family. Parents polled said that social media had either helped (23%) or had no impact (46%) on their child’s self-esteem, although one in five indicated it had hurt their child’s mental health.
“We know that social media can be very harmful for some individuals,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “It has the effect of turning up the volume on conversations and connecting people in ways that can have a negative impact. That said, these poll results seem to indicate that many Americans are finding an ability to use social media in a way that feels harmless if not helpful to their lives.”
A promising result from the poll was that about two-thirds (67%) of Americans were confident in their knowledge of how to help a loved one if they indicated mental health challenges on social media.
*APA’s Healthy Minds Monthly tracks timely mental health issues throughout the year. APA also releases its annual Healthy Minds Poll each May in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month.
American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,400 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA's vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.