Age and anxiety linked to problematic social networking use

Younger people, those in a relationship and people with symptoms of anxiety are more likely to experience problematic social media use, according to a new study by Nottingham Trent University (NTU).

Couple on their phones
People in a relationship are more likely to experience problematic social media use

The research examined the associations between problematic social networking site use, sleep quality, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety and stress among social media users.

More than 630 people from across the globe responded to the online survey, led by psychologist Dr Zaheer Hussain in conjunction with Distinguished Professor Mark Griffiths from NTU’s School of Social Sciences.

The findings showed that anxiety, depression and ADHD were particularly linked to social media ‘addiction’.

Dr Hussain said: “While we can’t say 100% that these conditions are directly related to problematic use, because the survey required people to self-report, constantly checking newsfeeds, messaging, chatting, watching videos, sharing and posting pictures can exacerbate symptoms of psychiatric disorders. These distracting activities can co-occur with other behaviours such as short-term attention, restlessness, forgetfulness, impulsiveness and decreased ability to retain information. These behaviours are symptoms of ADHD that can lead to issues in academic, home and recreational settings.”

Along with respondents reporting poor quality of sleep, there were also correlations between age and being in a relationship and problematic use.

Dr Hussain added: “The reasons for these associations may be related to the nature of the apps being used. They encourage users to regularly check their news feed, view notifications, update profiles, view pictures, etc. and this may lead to anxiety amongst users. In relation to age, those who are younger tend to be the first people to use new apps, they also often have more time or flexible lives so can spend more time online. In terms of the associations between problematic social media use and poor sleep quality; social media may be encouraging people to increase usage later into the night which can then impact on sleep.

“Being in a relationship is an interesting one, it could be that they are encouraged to use social networking apps due to their partner using them, or they may have more connections online due to their relationship with their partner.”

The study raises the question of appropriate interventions to support users, such as encouraging the practice of mindfulness and the use of screen time and wellbeing apps

The Associations between Problematic Social Networking Site Use and Sleep Quality, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression, Anxiety and Stress has been published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction and is available to view online.

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    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students. NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019. A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 87% satisfaction score in the 2019 National Student Survey.

    A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 87% satisfaction score in the 2019 National Student Survey.

    NTU is also one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly universities, containing some of the sector’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.

    NTU is home to world-class research, and won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 – the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage; enable safer production of powdered infant formula; and combat food fraud.

Age and anxiety linked to problematic social networking use

Published on 17 December 2019
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Social Sciences

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