Ottawa researchers report that heavy use of social networks by adolescents is linked to poor mental health, high psychological distress, suicidal thoughts, and an unmet need for mental health support.
Investigators determined that although heavy use of the sites may be linked to mental health issues, the sites also provide a setting in which support services could be provided to a vulnerable population.
Researchers believe the findings send an important message to parents and with study authors suggesting increase mental health support service offerings on these sites.
In the study, Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga, M.D., and Rosamund Lewis, M.D., from the Ottawa Public Health department (Ottawa, Canada) analyzed data on students in grades seven to 12. They specifically reviewed data from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey.
They discovered about 25 percent of students reported using social networking sites for more than two hours daily.
The study is described in an article in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking and is available free on the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking website until August 22, 2015.
In the article, the authors compare time spent using social networking sites to the teens’ self-reports of psychological well-being and unmet needs for mental health support.
“This is where we see social networking sites, which may be a problem for some, also being a solution,” said Editor-in-Chief Brenda K. Wiederhold, Ph.D., M.B.A.
“Since teens are on the sites, it is the perfect place for public health and service providers to reach out and connect with this vulnerable population and provide health promotion systems and supports.”