College student mental health: Impacts of social media during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jessica Haddad, MD

Brigham and Women’s Hospital – Resident
Haddad_Jessica poster

Scientific Abstract

Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, both social media use and rates of anxiety and depression among college students have increased significantly.1-2 This begs the question, what is the relationship between social media use and college student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Methods: We conducted a narrative review of the existing literature regarding the impact of social media on college student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Articles published between the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and 01/03/21 (date of last search) were screened. To be included in analysis, studies had to be observational, original, use validated instruments to evaluated depression and anxiety, include data on social media and COVID, and include demographic data or other predictors of mental illness. 

Results: A total of 360 articles were retrieved. Articles were manually screened by title and abstract while considering the inclusion and exclusion criteria, which resulted in removal of 281 articles. Data were then extracted from the remaining 89 articles, and 83 additional articles were excluded thereafter (per exclusion criteria). The remaining 6 articles were all original observational studies of college mental health related to social media use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Narrative review of these studies suggests that social media use among college students is associated with mental health symptoms, but the direction of these relations is mixed, likely due in part to moderating factors (e.g., excessive COVID-19 exposure, perceived social connectedness, emotion-regulation strategies). The pandemic may have strengthened the role that social media use might have on mental health.

Conclusions: Excessive or problematic social media use during COVID was correlated with worse mental health outcomes overall, especially depression. COVID-19 acts as a moderator by strengthening the relationship between social media use and mental health. There are a variety of moderating factors that serve to strengthen or mitigate this association.

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research Areas


Jessi Haddad, MD, Christina Macenski, MD, Alison Mosier Mills, BA, Alice Hibara, BA, Katherine Kester, MD, Marguerite Schneider, MD, Rachel C. Conrad, MD, Cindy H. Liu PhD

Principal Investigator

Rachel C. Conrad, MD