The Teen Brain on Social Media

Social media pressures linked to anxiety, depression, sleep problems in teens


Unlike teenagers, social media never sleeps. But for teens who try to keep up with online accounts 24/7, there may be a price.

A new study from Scotland found that the 'round-the-clock pull of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter may lead to depression, anxiety and poor sleep in teens who feel a compulsion to participate.

"Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this," said lead study author Heather Cleland Woods, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Glasgow, in a press release. "It is important that we understand how social media use relates to these. Evidence is increasingly supporting a link between social media use and well-being, particularly during adolescence, but the causes of this are unclear."

For this study, Dr. Woods and team surveyed 467 UK teens about their social media use, specifically their nighttime habits.

The teens' sleep quality, levels of self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and emotional investment in social media were also measured.

According to these researchers, feeling emotionally tied to social media accounts can lead to a compulsion to be plugged in constantly — such as needing to update or respond to posts immediately.

Lack of sleep due to social media pressures was found to be strongly linked to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem in these teens.

"While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected," Dr. 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."

This study was presented Sept. 11 at the annual British Psychological Society conference. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Funding sources and conflicts of interest were not available at publication time.