Social Media and Depression Symptoms: a Meta-Analysis

Res Child Adolesc Psychopathol. 2021 Feb;49(2):241-253. doi: 10.1007/s10802-020-00715-7. Epub 2021 Jan 6.


Social Networking Sites (SNS) have close to 3 billion users worldwide. Recently, however, SNS have come under media scrutiny for their potential association with depression. Two previous meta-analyses failed to find evidence for a robust concurrent association between SNS use and depression symptoms. However, these analyses focused primarily on the time spent using SNS. The current meta-analysis is the first to consider the multi-dimensional nature of SNS use, and examines separately the quantitative associations of depression symptoms to SNS use in three types of SNS studies examining three distinct constructs of SNS use: time spent using SNS, intensity of SNS use, and problematic SNS use. Sixty-two studies (N = 451, 229) met inclusion criteria. Depression symptoms were significantly, but weakly, associated with time spent using SNS (r = 0.11) and intensity of SNS use (r = 0.09). However, the association of depression symptoms to problematic SNS use was moderate (r = 0.29), was significantly higher than for time spent using SNS (Qbetween = 35.85, p < 0.001) or intensity of SNS use (Qbetween = 13.95, p < 0.001), and was not significantly moderated by age, gender, year of study publication, or mode of recruitment. These results suggest that future research examining causal models of the relation of SNS use and depression, as well as research on intervention and prevention, should focus in more detail on individuals who are engaging in a pattern of problematic SNS use.

Keywords: Depression symptoms; Problematic social media use; Social networking sites.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Social Media*
  • Social Networking