Social media use is (weakly) related to psychological distress

Samantha Stronge*, Tara Mok, Anastasia Ejova, Carol Lee, Elena Zubielevitch, Kumar Yogeeswaran, Diala Hawi, Danny Osborne, Joseph Bulbulia, Chris G. Sibley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Although the growing prevalence of social media usage raises concerns about its potentially negative impact on mental health and distress, research has found mixed results. This study resolves these inconsistencies by examining the association between hours of time spent on social media use and psychological distress in a sample of New Zealand adults (N = 19,075). After adjusting for demographics and time spent on various other activities (e.g., exercise, sleep, and housework), social media use correlated positively with psychological distress. Although social media use had one of the largest per-hour unit associations with psychological distress compared with time spent engaging in other habitual activities, the association was very weak. Thus, only excessive amounts of social media usage would result in practical changes in distress. These findings provide robust data from a large-scale national probability sample of adults, demonstrating that social media use is typically not a serious risk factor for psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604-609
Number of pages6
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • social media
  • time usage
  • psychological distress
  • mental well-being
  • exercise


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