On Nov.29, 2023 the British Medical Journal published an article that showed that social media usage is responsible for unhealthy behaviors in youth. In a meta-analysis the researchers compared “hardly ever users” of social media with “heavy users” of social media. 73 studies were included in the meta-analysis. The study population were 1,431,534 adolescents with a mean age of 15 years. There were harmful associations between the use of social media and many health risk behaviors. The only exception was physical inactivity. 63.6% of the studies reported that social media led to increased physical activities.
Results of the metaanalysis
Frequent versus infrequent use of social media was measured in relationship to a number of lifestyles. Here are the results. The frequent use of social media caused:
- 49% higher alcohol consumption
- 28% higher drug use
- 85% increased tobacco use
- 77% increased sexual risk behavior
- 73% antisocial behavior
- 75% multiple risk behaviors
- 184% more increased gambling
- 73% increased vaping
- 148% unhealthy dietary behavior
- Youths who spent at least 2 hours on social media, consumed 112% more alcohol than controls.
Social media has rapidly expanded over the past 8 years with Instagram being the latest tool. The population in this meta-analysis were non university and non-college adolescents. As shown above there were several unhealthy behaviors that social media caused in these teenagers. Of concern is the increased alcohol and tobacco use as well as the adoption of unhealthy dietary behaviors. This can lead to obesity, hardening of the arteries, heart attacks and strokes. The increase in antisocial and multiple risk behavior is of concern as it paves the way to criminal activities and accidents. Gambling eventually leads to poverty. Increased sexual risk behavior has an association with venereal diseases.
At the end of November 2023, the British Medical Journal published a study showing that social media usage is responsible for unhealthy behaviors in youth. The study population were 1,431,534 adolescents with a mean age of 15 years. These youngsters are in a vulnerable age where social media can play a large part of how they behave. The meta-analysis showed that youth under the influence of social media used more drugs, alcohol and tobacco/vaping. They also ate more unhealthy diets, engaged in risky sexual behavior, antisocial behavior and gambling. The only exception was physical exercise, which social media encourages youth to engage in, which is healthy. We are only now realizing how powerful social media is. Teachers, governments and parents need to find a way to limit exposure to social media. But with people using cell phones all the time this is not an easy task.