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Americans are Concerned about Potential Negative Impacts of Social Media on Mental Health and Well-being

  • May 19, 2019
  • 2019 Annual Meeting

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Americans generally feel social media has a more negative than positive influence on mental and emotional well-being, according to a new national poll released here today by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). More than one in three adults (38%) see social media usage as harmful to mental health; nearly half (45%) see social media usage as having both positive and negative impact on mental health; only 5% see it as having a positive impact.

While social media can help connect people, it can also leave people feeling more isolated. When asked about the connection between social media and loneliness, more than two-thirds of adults (67%) agree social media usage is related to feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Millennials are more likely (73%) than baby boomers (62%) to agree with the connection between social media and loneliness. African Americans (33%) are more likely than Caucasians (22%) or Hispanics (25%) to completely agree on this relationship between social media and loneliness.

Across ages, gender and ethnicities, people expressed concern about social media use among children and teens. Nearly nine in ten adults (88%) think social media activity among kids/teens is concerning. The level of concern was also similar among people with children and those without children.

About one in seven adults (14%) use a social media app to support their mental health. Not unexpectedly, younger adults are much more likely than older adults to do so. Nearly a quarter of millennials (24%) say they use a social media app to support their mental health compared to only 3% of baby boomers. Hispanic Americans (27%) and African Americans (17%) are more likely than Caucasians (9%) to say they use a social media app to support their mental health.

"These results reflect Americans concern with use of social media and its potential negative impacts," said APA President Altha Stewart, M.D. "While social media can have benefits and help keep us connected to friends and family, it's important for adults, and for children and teens, to balance social media use with other activities and connecting with others in real life."

These findings are from an APA-sponsored poll conducted online using ORC International’s CARAVAN® Omnibus Survey. The surveys were collected from a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults during the period April 4-7, 2019, and from similar polls of about 1,000 adults in March 2018 and April 2017. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percentage points.

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 38,500 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


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