Social Media’s Influence on Mental Health

social media influence: cup of coffee and phone on table displaying social media apps

Social media is a big part of modern life. According to the Statista Research Department, as of 2022 internet users worldwide spend an average of 147 minutes per day on social media. This has increased year on year and is up from 145 minutes in 2021.

Spending so much time online has meant that social media influences our lives massively, and not always for the better. One area of our lives in particular that is influenced by social media is our mental health. Read more about the positive and negative impacts of social media on our mental health.

This article looks at social media’s influence on our mental health, from the amount of time spent on social media platforms to the glamourisation of mental health conditions, and how it can be used in a positive way.

How does the amount of time spent on social media influence our mental health?

Research has shown that the more time we spend on social media, the more likely we are to experience poor mental health.

A study conducted on students in Canada found a significant link between the time spent on social media and mental health. Among the sample of students, those who reported spending 2 or more hours per day on social media were more likely to self-rate their mental health as “poor” or “fair” compared to students who spent less time, or no time at all, on social media.

Furthermore, a study conducted in 2019 on 6595 US adolescents found that those who spent over 3 hours per day on social media have an increased risk of poor mental health.

A 2018 study on 54 adolescents aged 11-18 in the UK identified 3 themes: social media was believed to cause mood and anxiety disorders for some adolescents, social media was viewed as a platform for cyberbullying, and the use of social media itself was often framed as a kind of addiction.

Spending large amounts of time on social media can be detrimental to our mental health especially if we are consuming content that is harmful. An example of this is content that glamourises mental health.

The glamourisation of mental health through social media

One issue that has been highlighted in recent years is the impact social media plays on the prevalence of mental health diagnoses.

Whilst social media has been a great platform for us to share our experiences with mental health and help to reduce the stigma, has it also allowed us to glamourise mental health conditions to the point that young people are negatively influenced?

Research suggests that this may be the case, as a study conducted by Rola Jadayel and Karim Medlej in 2017 found that many teenagers and young adults see mental disorders as normal, relatable and even desirable.

As part of the study, they conducted a recorded discussion, in which one participant confessed: “depression was appealing to me. I exaggerated it on Tumblr, saved many pictures and started sketching depressing drawings. It took a few months before I sought help and got diagnosed and treated for depression.”

Another participant said: “I thought anorexia was nice. I wanted to be anorexic.”

Unfortunately, examples of glamourisation can be found across all social media platforms, which as research shows is having a big impact on the way mental health diagnoses are perceived.

Can social media influence our mental health in a positive way?

Whilst there is lots of content out there that may be harmful and damaging, there are lots of helpful free resources that have been created thanks to social media.

Instagram is a great platform for accessing bite-size top tips and information snippets relating to many mental health conditions. These resources are easy to understand and consume, as they are often in the form of graphics and are not text-heavy.

The Blurt Foundation Instagram page is a great example of this.

You can find content on all social media platforms that is accurate, informative and helpful, you just need to make sure to check the source of the information you’re consuming. Organisations such as Mind, Samaritans or Rethink Mental Illness are trustworthy sources, so you can be confident that the information they put out on their social media platforms is accurate.

On the other hand, a TikTok video or Facebook post from an individual outlining “symptoms of depression” or “5 signs you have anxiety” may not be the best source of information, and you should question the validity of the source and the information included.


Ultimately, how we use it can have a big impact on how social media influences us. We can reduce the negative influences by using social media responsibly.

If you are unsure about anything or would like further advice, contact your GP or health professional. The Mental Health Foundation also has an A-Z on its website with information relating to a range of mental health diagnoses.


Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (2018, September). Social media use and mental health among students in Ontario. CAMH Population Studies eBulletin, 19(2). Retrieved from

Kira E. Riehm, MS, Kenneth A. Feder, PhD, Kayla N. Tormohlen, MPH, et al (2019). Associations Between Time Spent Using Social Media and Internalizing and Externalizing Problems Among US Youth.

Michelle O’Reilly, Nisha Dogra, Natasha Whiteman, Jason Hughes, Seyda Eruyar, Paul Reilly (2018). Is social media bad for mental health and wellbeing? Exploring the perspectives of adolescents. 

Rola Jadayel and Karim Medlej (2017). Mental disorders: a glamourous attraction on social media?


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.

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