Problematic Social Media Use and Mental Health in Canadian Adolescents
Background: Adolescent mental health problems have become increasingly common in recent years. Problematic social media use (PSMU) has recently gained attention as a possible risk factor for mental health problems. However, the relationship between problematic social media use and adolescent mental health problems remains understudied, and few studies have specifically examined mediated pathways linking the two phenomena. Foundational knowledge about such pathways is necessary to support the development of clinical interventions to reduce the psychological burden of problematic social media use. Objectives: The objectives of this thesis are to: 1) estimate the relative risk for reporting two or more indicators of internalizing mental health problems from problematic social media use, 2) estimate the extent to which exposure to cyberbullying victimization mediates the relationship between problematic social media use and indicators of internalizing mental health problems in adolescents, and 3) to investigate whether gender modifies either the direct or mediated effect of problematic social media use on indicators of internalizing mental health problems. Methods: Data from Cycle 8 of the Canadian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study was used. Direct and mediated effects were estimated using counterfactual mediation analysis. Effects were estimated for the entire sample and for each gender. Results: Participants who engaged in problematic social media use were 1.59 (95% CI: 1.47 – 1.73) times as likely to report multiple psychological health complaints. Cyberbullying victimization did not mediate the total effect of PSMU on multiple psychological health complaints in isolation. Results were consistent between genders. Conclusions: PSMU is an important risk factor for multiple psychological health complaints in Canadian adolescents. Cyberbullying victimization does not appear to mediate the relationship between problematic social media use and multiple psychological health complaints in isolation, nor does this differ between boys and girls.