Social Media and Mental Health

95 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2021 Last revised: 29 Jul 2022

See all articles by Luca Braghieri

Luca Braghieri

Bocconi University - Department of Decision Sciences

Roee Levy

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics

Alexey Makarin

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: July 28, 2022

Abstract

The diffusion of social media coincided with a worsening of mental health conditions among adolescents and young adults in the United States, giving rise to speculation that social media might be detrimental to mental health. In this paper, we provide quasi-experimental estimates of the impact of social media on mental health by leveraging a unique natural experiment: the staggered introduction of Facebook across U.S. colleges. Our analysis couples data on student mental health around the years of Facebook's expansion with a generalized difference-in-differences empirical strategy. We find that the roll-out of Facebook at a college increased symptoms of poor mental health, especially depression. We also find that, among students predicted to be most susceptible to mental illness, the introduction of Facebook led to increased utilization of mental healthcare services. Lastly, we find that, after the introduction of Facebook, students were more likely to report experiencing impairments to academic performance resulting from poor mental health. Additional evidence on mechanisms suggests that the results are due to Facebook fostering unfavorable social comparisons.

Keywords: social media, mental heath, Facebook, depression, social comparisons

JEL Classification: D12, D72, D90, I10, L82, L8

Suggested Citation

Braghieri, Luca and Levy, Roee and Makarin, Alexey, Social Media and Mental Health (July 28, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3919760 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3919760

Luca Braghieri

Bocconi University - Department of Decision Sciences ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

Roee Levy

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 39040
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel

Alexey Makarin (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://alexeymakarin.github.io/

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF)

Via Sallustiana, 62
Rome, Lazio 00187
Italy

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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