How Does Social Media Cause Mental Health Issues?

How Does Social Media Cause Mental Health Issues?

Parents are filing social media lawsuits against platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, and their parent companies, claiming the tech giants failed to protect young users from violent and inappropriate content. The lawsuits claim that these companies defectively designed their apps to be intentionally addictive. Once lured into their web, these platforms exploited children by collecting their personal data and using it to churn profits for themselves while ignoring the detrimental effects the apps had on user's mental health. But just how does social media cause mental health issues?

In this post, we’ll explore the years of research linking social media use among teens and tweens to mental health issues.

Mental Health Effects of Social Media

Youth have reported a range of physical and psychological symptoms as a result of social media use, such as:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Eating Disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating
  • Injuries or death related to social media challenges
  • Insomnia and difficulty sleeping
  • Sexual exploitation and victimization
  • Self-harm or thoughts of self-harm
  • Suicide or social thoughts

If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Text TALK to 741741.

Today’s youth are the first generation to grow up entirely in the digital age. And they did so alongside social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. These kids are tech-savvy and well-versed in the language of these apps and can easily bypass the weak measures some apps put in place to enforce age restrictions, such as simply selecting “yes” when asked if they are older than 14.

As social media use among teens and tweens grew, so did concerns over the impact it was having on their mental health. Here’s a sampling of studies:

January-June 2017

Industrial Psychiatry Journal, Selfie Use: The implications for psychopathology expression of body dysmorphic disorder

A review of several studies found that selfies are the primary factor in driving young people to seek plastic surgery, resulting in a 10% increase in nose jobs, a 7% increase in hair transplants, and a 6% increase in eyelid surgery. Researchers also noted that girls who spend more time on social media platforms such as Facebook are more likely to have a poor self-image and a greater desire to lose weight.

July 17, 2018

JAMA, Association of Digital Media Use With Subsequent Symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adolescents

A study among 2,500 high school students found the more time a student spent checking social media, texting, or viewing images or videos on their cell phones, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of ADHD.

October-December 2018

Indian Journal of Psychiatry, The role of online social networking on deliberate self-harm and suicidality in adolescents: A systematic review of literature

A review of nine studies on the effects of social media on adolescents found that online social networking led to increased exposure to and engagement in self-harm behaviors due to users “receiving negative messages promoting self-harm, emulating self-injurious behavior of others, and adopting self-harm practices from shared videos.” Additionally, “the great time spent on online social networking promotes social-harm behavior and suicidal ideation in vulnerable adolescents.”

December 2018

Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression

An experimental study involving 143 college undergraduates finds that limiting social media significantly reduced feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and “fear of missing out” (FOMO).

September 11, 2019

JAMA Psychiatry, Associations Between Time Spent Using Social Media and Internalizing and Externalizing Problems Among U.S. Youth

A cohort study of 6,595 U.S. adolescents finds those who spend more than three hours a day on social media are at greater risk of mental health problems, particularly internalizing problems.

December 2019

International Journal of Eating Disorders, The Relationship Between Social Media Use and Disordered Eating in Young Adolescents

An exploratory study among 996 students in grades 7 and 8 found that those who had social media accounts, particularly girls, were more likely to have disordered eating thoughts or to exhibit disordered eating. The more social media accounts or time spent on social media, the more likely these young users were to have disordered eating behaviors and over-evaluate their shape and weight.

June 22, 2023

BMC Psychiatry, Social media and mental health in students: a cross-sectional study during the Covid-19 pandemic

A study conducted in 2021 among 781 university students found that social media use had a direct relationship with mental health and was significantly associated with worsened mental health.

November 2022

American Economic Review, Social Media and Mental Health

Researchers paired the rollout of Facebook in colleges with 430,000 responses in the National College Health Assessment and found a significant link between the presence of Facebook and a deterioration in the mental health of college students.

May 2023

U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory, Social Media and Youth Mental Health

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Hallegere Murthy issued a report detailing the damage social media has on teens and adolescents, finding that the vast majority of parents worry children under 18 are exposed to age-inappropriate content, that children under 18 need more legislative protections from social media, and that there should be laws in place prohibiting social media platforms from collecting personal data from children.

June 2023

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Data Briefs: Suicide and Homicide Death Rates Among Youth and Young Adults aged 10-24: United States, 2001-2021

Researchers found no significant change in the suicide rate among young people between the ages of 10-24 from 2001 to 2007. But between 2007 and 2021, the suicide rate in this age group grew 62% —in step with the increase in social media use among young people.

Contact a Lawyer to Discuss Your Social Media Youth Harm Case

If your child suffered psychological injuries after using Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other social media platform, you may be able to hold these platforms accountable for the harm they caused through a social media lawsuit. The experienced mass tort lawyers at Legal Lawsuit News are investigating these cases. Contact us today at 866-467-0943 or through our online contact form for a free and confidential consultation.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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