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The “inappropriate” use of social media and mental health

Published on 2024-02-03

The "inappropriate" use of social media and screens causes self-esteem issues in 95% of women and anxiety in 72% of men. Among the consequences of such use, depression stands out in women and low concentration in men.

This is revealed by the "Exploratory Study on Health Effects Due to Overexposure to Social Media (SM) and Screens with a Gender Perspective," sponsored by the Network for Addiction Care (UNAD), in collaboration with the Spanish Federation of Rehabilitated Gamblers (Fejar), to "highlight" the "physical, psychological, emotional, and social consequences" of "overexposure" to social media and screens, especially among younger people, as UNAD specified in a statement this Thursday.

The aim of this work, funded through the Ministry of Social Rights, Consumer Affairs, and the 2030 Agenda, is to have an "exploratory study" that can "open new research opportunities" to "address" this "issue" in the medium term.

For the preparation of the document, they relied on more than 50 entities from UNAD and Fejar that are addressing cases of this nature, as well as on individuals with addictions and experts in treatment and research.

52% of the surveyed organizations confirmed that the "majority" age group of the population receiving attention is between 16 and 18 years old. At these ages, both genders are "equally" served, although as age increases, "the difference between genders becomes greater, and more men than women arrive for treatment," UNAD explained.


Regarding the consequences, alongside self-esteem issues, women also highlighted anxiety disorders (73%), depression (64%), and self-harm (32%). Also notable are eating disorders and other behavior and socialization related issues.

The "most cited" situations are "connected" to crimes such as cyberbullying, sexspreading or revenge porn, and cyberstalking, which, according to the study, "represent some of the problems that most heavily affect women's mental health." Additionally, there are "effects" at the academic level, stemming from abusive relationships with their partners.

For men, alongside anxiety, the lack of concentration (70%) tops the list of health consequences from overexposure to social media and screens. This is followed by low self-esteem (67%) and depression (37%), with self-harm (7%) in the last place.

Other "characteristic symptoms" in the treated men include "generalized aggression," "disruptive behaviors," school absenteeism and low academic performance, "isolation and aggression" towards their family, "character changes," loss of sleep, "lack of other interests, and financial problems."


The survey conducted for this study also sought to "explore" which other addictions are "associated" with the use of networks and screens, revealing that only 9% of the consulted organizations treat women who presented comorbidity with gambling addiction, 30% said it was associated with compulsive shopping, and 23%, that the comorbidity is "related to eating disorders."

On the other hand, 39% added other comorbidity risks such as behavioral disorder and aggression, confusion in achieving "satisfactory" accomplishments, anxiety, or depressive symptoms.

In the case of men, nearly 80% of professionals participating in the survey declared that the use of networks and screens by men has "associated" comorbidity with "pathological" gambling, and other disorders linked to these behaviors in men are social isolation, sleep disorders, addiction to video games, or gambling.


In this context, both networks listed a series of actions and made a call to institutions, public authorities, and society in general to "address this problem."

In this sense, the study emphasizes prevention as the "main axis," especially in schools and institutes, "so that families can be actively included and thus foster an intergenerational, respectful, and open dialogue."

Moreover, it considers necessary to work on disseminating "inclusive, ethical, and respectful" content and to use resources created by young people that "counteract the hate narratives circulating on social media."

Parallelly, they stress the importance of working on "discourses that do not pathologize," that is, allowing affected individuals and the institutions that serve them "to strengthen health preservation resources without falling into alarmist discourses," which, in their view, "have little preventive outcome."

Alongside this, the document warns that the "harmful" health effects resulting from the use of networks and screens "should not be treated as individual problems" and highlights the need to "reinforce the idea that it is not a problem that can be addressed without a gender perspective."

Lastly, it focuses on the importance of promoting "differentiated" interventions and treatments and increasing resources and research to tackle this issue.


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