A recent study conducted by researchers at University College London (UCL) has revealed the positive impact of therapy for individuals dealing with problematic social media use, especially those facing depression.
Published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the study highlighted that interventions aimed at managing social media use could significantly benefit adults struggling with the negative effects of excessive social media engagement on their mental health.
Problematic use occurs when social media consumption starts to disrupt essential responsibilities, diverting individuals from important aspects of their lives.
Prior research indicates that social media use can become problematic when it adversely affects daily life, leading to mental health issues such as sadness, anxiety, stress, and loneliness.
To address these concerns and enhance users’ mental well-being, researchers have developed and evaluated social media use interventions. These methods include strategies like reducing or abstaining from social media use in conjunction with therapy-based techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
The study involved the analysis of 23 research projects spanning from 2004 to 2022, encompassing participants from various regions worldwide. The findings revealed that in more than a third of the studies (39%), interventions focusing on social media use resulted in improved mental well-being.
Notably, the improvements were particularly significant for depression, with 70% of the studies showing substantial enhancements in this area after the intervention.
Therapy-based interventions were the most effective, leading to improvements in mental well-being in 83% of the studies, in contrast to 20% of studies where social media use was limited and 25% where participants completely gave up social media.
Dr. Ruth Plackett, the lead author from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, emphasized, “Reducing time spent on social media is unlikely to benefit mental well-being on its own. Instead, taking a more therapy-based approach and reflecting on how and why we are interacting with social media and managing those behaviors could help improve mental health.”
Dr. Patricia Schartau, a study author and GP from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, suggested, “As primary care physicians, we should proactively explore social media use and its effects on mental health in patients who present with anxiety and/or low mood in order to give those patients the opportunity to benefit from treatment including some of the more effective interventions outlined in our review.”
In 2022, it was estimated that approximately 4.59 billion people globally used at least one form of social media, significantly impacting communication, relationships, and perceptions.
While some studies highlight the benefits of social media, providing increased social support, other evidence points to links between social media and psychological issues, particularly among young people.
The researchers aim to use these findings to develop guidance and recommendations for policymakers and clinicians on how best to address problematic social media use. However, further research is needed to determine who might benefit most from social media use interventions.