Social media use and self-injurious thoughts and behaviors: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Clin Psychol Rev. 2021 Jul:87:102038. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2021.102038. Epub 2021 May 8.


Despite considerable public and scholarly debate about the role of social media in self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs), no comprehensive, quantitative synthesis of this literature has previously been undertaken. The current systematic review and meta-analysis examines associations between social media use and SITBs, including suicidal ideation, suicide plans, suicide attempts, and nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). A range of social media behaviors and experiences were identified, including cybervictimization and perpetration, exposure to and generation of SITB-related content, problematic use, sexting, social media importance, and frequency of use. A systematic search of PsycINFO, Medline, CINAHL, and the references of prior reviews yielded 61 eligible studies. Results largely suggested medium effect sizes for associations between specific social media constructs (cybervictimization, SITB-related social media use, problematic social media use) and SITBs. There was no association between frequency of social media use and SITBs; however, studies on this topic were limited. The majority of studies identified focused on cybervictimization, and results suggested positive associations with all SITBs, with the association between cybervictimization and suicidal ideation stronger for adolescents than adults. Overall, findings highlight the utility of examining specific social media behaviors and experiences, and point to the need for more research in this area.

Keywords: Nonsuicidal self-injury; Self-injurious behaviors; Social media; Suicidal ideation; Suicide attempt; Suicide plans.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior*
  • Social Media*
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide, Attempted