For the study, presented at a British Psychological Society conference, researchers Dr. Heather Cleland Woods and Holly Scott of the University of Glasgow provided questionnaires to 467 teenagers regarding their social media use overall, as well as at night time.
A further set of tests measured sleep quality, self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
The researchers also measured the teens’ emotional investment in social media, which relates to the pressure felt to be available 24/7 and the anxiety around, for example, not responding immediately to texts or posts, they explained.
“Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this,” Cleland Woods said. “It is important that we understand how social media use relates to these. Evidence is increasingly supporting a link between social media use and wellbeing, particularly during adolescence, but the causes of this are unclear.”
An analysis of the collected data showed that overall and night-time specific social media use, along with emotional investment, were related to poorer sleep quality and lower self-esteem, coupled with higher anxiety and depression levels.
“While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected,” Cleland Woods said.
“This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested. This means we have to think about how our kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off.”