Social Media and Mental Health

79 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2021 Last revised: 16 Sep 2021

See all articles by Luca Braghieri

Luca Braghieri

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Roee Levy

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics

Alexey Makarin

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: August 12, 2021

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 the first 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, and led to increased utilization of mental healthcare services. We also find that, according to the students' reports, the decline in mental health translated into worse academic performance. Additional evidence on mechanisms suggests 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 (August 12, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3919760 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3919760

Luca Braghieri

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

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)

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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