Social Media and Mental Health Statistics

Practically everyone uses social media to some extent. And while it can be a wonderful tool to connect us and keep us updated with what is going on in each other’s lives, it is not without its drawbacks. Those open lines of communication can be abused. This leads to disinformation, cyberbullying, and harassment. The content people see on social media can be disturbing or meant to be emotionally stimulating in a way that is harmful (if keeping people engaged with the platform). Social media can be helpful. However, social media companies do not have users' best interests at heart.

This leads us to wonder what the effects of social media are on mental health. And we are hardly the first people to wonder about this. There have been countless studies, surveys, and research efforts to measure and understand the impact of social media.

Here is the key information we could find on the effects of social media on mental health:

The Extent of Social Media Use

Before we talk about the effects, we should make known how widespread the use of social media is and how much time people spend on it:

  • There are a total of 4.7 billion users of social media on Earth. That is more than half of the population of the planet. It is a much greater share of the total internet users. If we count only the population aged 13+ (the people who are technically allowed to use social media), more than 75 percent of the world’s population uses social media. That many people are connected, at least with another sizable segment of the population.
  • Specifically, out of internet users, 93.6 percent of them use social media. So out of the people who don’t use social media, we can surmise that most of them do not because they simply do not have internet access.
  • There are more than 227 million new social media users compared to last year.
  • The average person uses 7.4 platforms every month. We’ll discuss this shortly, but some are used much more than others, and some might be more addictive than others.
  • It should also be noted that it wasn’t always this way. In 2013 the average number of platforms was a little more than four. Yet with more platforms joining the scene (and all vying for your time with whatever means they can muster), people are getting on more to stay connected and in the know.
  • The average person spends two hours and 29 minutes every day on social media. This is an increase of five minutes over last year. Note that this is an average. Many people spend well above that amount of time on social media. 
  • Naturally, not all social media networks have the same amount of people. Some are more popular, though all of the major networks still have hundreds of millions of users.
  • For a more complete listing, just take a look at this graphic of the most popular social media networks.

Most popular social media networks in 2022

  • When you think about the numbers on this scale, it is easy to imagine that there could be a problem with social media addiction or mental health issues related to social media. If you just take Facebook as an example, if even 0.1 percent of three billion users were to have a serious problem as a result of the platform, that would still be thirty million people. And as we’ll see, the numbers are sadly much higher than that. Combine that with the many platforms and many users, and this is a widespread issue.
  • And as many of us well know, the effects of addiction or dependency do not contain themselves to just one person. While the effects might not be as serious on the outside as some addictions and problems, the overuse of social media (and the ignoring of everything else as a result) will have effects on the friends and family members of those around the person, as long as the relationship lasts.

Social Media Addiction

While the term “addiction” can be a loaded one in some discussions, with some saying it should only apply to physical dependencies, it is clear that some people have a distinct need to be on or stay close to social media. They have effectively made it their life. They are unlikely to stop using it of their own accord anytime soon. And as one of the leading problems related to social media, we should talk about this issue and some of its most important trends in more depth:

  • It is estimated that about 210 million people worldwide are addicted to social media and/or the internet in some way. 
  • While we won’t go too in-depth on how social media is addictive, much of it comes from how apps are designed and the constantly active and unknown nature of social media. There is always something more and the potential to learn and engage with something new. And social media apps always focus on keeping people’s attention, leading people to either check out “one more thing” or break their attention for a very frequent notification that popped up on their phone. 
  • Some teens will spend more than seven hours a day on social media. That is as much time as most would spend in a school day. However, the teens that are using social media that much are probably using it extensively during school as well.
  • Out of people aged 23-38, 15 percent admit that they have an addiction to social media. And there are likely more who are not so willing to admit they have a problem.
  • According to one source, the most addictive social media apps are TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook.
  • While one might argue whether YouTube is a social media app at all, it has all the functionality of one, and while focused on video, one can easily find that more social media elements and inspired design choices were introduced to it over time, especially on mobile apps. It’s a perfect example of social media affecting many of the other apps we use every day, potentially affecting how they might impact our mental health as well.
  • We suspect that the most addictive apps will change over time as social media networks try to outdo each other in user engagement.
  • Concerningly about 55 percent of drivers will check social media while driving. We do not need to go into the dangers of distracted driving here, but this is a clear instance of a time when social media can cause physical (and later emotional) harm to someone using it and other people on top of that. It is not the only cause of distracted driving, but it is a major contributor, and it is not so easily mitigated as hands-free calling and texting found in most modern cars.
  • As mentioned in the first section, people spend more than a few minutes daily on social media. Users will spend 30.1 minutes a day on Facebook. Twitter users will spend an average of about 34.8 minutes a day. TikTok is the leader, with respondents saying they spend 45.8 minutes a day on average on the platform. That is hundreds of hours each year and a ton of time often spent watching content that the user probably doesn’t care about in the long run.

A horizontal bar graph of the average time American spend each day on social media platforms

Depression and Other Effects

What other negative effects can social media have on people, and to what extent? Mental health can be an inexact subject to study, but larger trends can be easily made apparent. And while the pandemic and other stressful times have caused people to have more anxiety overall, social media still plays a large part. Here are some key stats:

  • According to one poll of Americans, 58 percent say that social media negatively impacts their mental health. Yet in what ways?
  • About 64 percent said they experienced some form of anxiety as a result of social media use.
  • 56 percent reported experiencing signs of depression. Dissatisfaction with a life affected 52 percent of those negatively affected. And body image issues affected 51 percent of respondents.
  • And which platforms do respondents say are the most harmful? They are Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Though whether this is a result of them being the most popular or some other reason, we are uncertain.
  • It is also clear that social media usage is negatively impacting young people's mental health, or there are some serious correlations to look at. Teens who spend more than five hours per day on social media (not as uncommon as some might think) are twice as likely to show symptoms of depression. Similarly. 27 percent of children who spend more than three hours daily on social media show poor mental health.
  • Smartphone usage can affect sleep, and so can social media usage. And the two are linked, often one being the other. The number of young adults experiencing sleep issues went from 26 percent to 41 percent from 2015 to 2021. Academic performance takes a proportional hit. It is not a direct tie with this study, but the correlation is clear, and many studies show the effects of smartphone usage before bed on sleep (the light emitted from smartphones keeps people up).
  • There is also the matter that social media generally curates content that will elicit a strong emotional response. People who are angry, upset, anxious, or even too happy are less likely to fall asleep.
  • It has also become a habit for most of us to check social media. About 71 percent of Americans check Facebook to some extent every day. About 49 percent check Facebook several times a day. That is a habit, and these trends could be displays of addictive behavior. That leads to the questions of what are they checking for and what happens if people cannot check or don’t find what they are looking for. The answers are not promising for people’s collective mental health.

Cyberbullying and Harassment

Much of what we hear in discussions about the harmful effects of social media relates to cyberbullying and harassment online. It isn’t the only issue, of course. Yet it certainly gets a lot of attention. It especially gets attention when the harassment turns to tragedy. The slow creep of more teens and adults alike spending more time on their smartphones is one thing. Major headlines that shock readers are another. And while there are ways to block and mute people on social media, it might not be enough, or harassers find their way around such tools. And unlike regular bullying in school, often the victim feels they have no escape.

Naturally, we do not need to go too in-depth on the negative mental health effects of cyberbullying on teens (and people of any age). In extreme cases, it can lead to increased anxiety, social problems, and even suicide. It keeps people from being their best. It is a growing and major problem in many communities. Here are some statistics and trends to pay attention to:

  • 59 percent of U.S. teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying either online or on their cell phones. About 42 percent of U.S. teens experienced offensive name-calling. A disturbing 16 percent received physical threats, and seven percent had explicit images of them shared without their consent (all the more disturbing given that most respondents are underage). For the full listing from Pew Research, look at the graphic below: 

A horizontal bar graph of the percentage of US teens who have experienced bullying

  • And while social media doesn’t cause or condole such bullying and abuse, it does enable it, and we have not yet found a way to combat it properly.
  • Yet harassment doesn’t need to happen for some people to feel the negative effects of social media. About 43 percent of teenagers say they feel bad if no one likes their posts. In a world where posts are shown to people by algorithm, that’s a lot to place in the hands of a network that does not care and might not deliver the satisfaction a teen wants. Feeling excluded is only amplified by a tool that can create a place of belonging and social acceptance as something of a simulated norm.
  • There are serious consequences for many people who use social media too much. Seven out of ten teens who use social media for more than five hours a day on average have a much greater risk of committing suicide.
  • However, with the above, it is hard to tell whether the increased phone usage is an effect of the depressive symptoms or whether phone usage causes the effects (or a bit of both).
  • While all the above is problematic, it doesn’t look like it is stopping anytime soon. Children spent significantly more time on social media in 2020 than they did in 2019 (76 percent longer).

Can There Be Positive Effects?

While we have mostly talked about the dangers of social media and many of the negative effects of using it or using it too much, some other questions and notes remain. One of the main things people wonder is if it is so bad, then why does anyone use it? 

Part of this might be social media and apps' addictive or compulsive qualities. After all, people often do things that aren’t necessarily the best for them. Yet if there wasn’t something drawing people in, then not nearly as many people would be using social media as they do today, and they wouldn’t be using it nearly as much.

There are some good things about the internet and social media. In particular, when used well, social media and other online tools can be used to find and foster communities where they otherwise would be hard, if not impossible, to create or find. They can help create a sense of connectedness among users or help supplement that connectedness that already exists. Social media cannot be a full replacement for social interaction in our daily lives (in-person contact is required to trigger hormones that help us feel better). Yet a sense of connectedness leads to reduced stress, eases anxiety and depression, and provides a host of other benefits.

Similarly, while social media cannot be a replacement for real networks, it can help people find real networks of support in their area. Groups, events, and the like can all be found on social media platforms, allowing people to meet up in person and form real connections. A notable portion of the population of the United States does not receive social support when needed. Social media can help people, over time, find that and make lifelong connections that allow them to be happier and more mentally resilient in the long run.

Social media and smartphones can also, in theory, be great tools for families and communities to keep in touch. It allows people in rural areas and people who have difficulties getting out to stay in touch with loved ones regularly. People around the world cannot regularly travel to visit their extended families or even close families that live far away. Social media, video calls, and similar technologies can help us maintain those essential relationships.

While social media might not be able to replace in-person contact, it can replace those quick interactions that just serve as distractions and might stress us out. If social media can save us time in the right way, we can spend more time on self-care and spending quality time with loved ones.

Essentially, it all comes down to how we use these tools and connections and how platforms tweak themselves. How do platforms encourage their own usage, now through their words, the actions of the companies, and their design? Does social media help us stay in touch with the people who matter, or make us susceptible to the opinions and judgment (whether perceived or not) of strangers who shouldn’t matter?

What Can Be Done?

For the most part, all of this is something to be seriously concerned about. Young people and adults alike are being negatively affected by social media, sometimes in very serious ways. This is a relatively new problem, and experts are still debating how to best tackle it if the experts are even interested in tackling it in the first place (social media companies employ many). Yet all is not without hope. Here are some of the current arguments and options being presented:

  • In the case of addiction, usually, one doesn’t just simply say, “I’m not going to do that anymore,” and find positive results. It will take more than willpower and a positive attitude, especially when a smartphone is effectively necessary to survive in the modern world. People, especially younger people, are expected to have a smartphone, and to not have one is to reduce one’s quality of life by a significant amount. There are exceptions to people needing intervention, but the first step in many cases is to recognize that social media dependency is a problem for some people and start working on developing treatment and intervention methods.
  • Similarly to issues revolving around other forms of addiction, we also need to discuss the norms attached to social media and the stigma attached to dependency and addiction. We are not experts on the subject, but people may want to start listening to people who are.
  • In some ways, not much might be able to be done without the cooperation of social media networks themselves. Some argue that the outlets are responsible for their users' mental health, and others still call for government regulation of social media networks. This already occurs in some countries. As more data comes out, social media companies are taking a lot of heat for not doing something to combat negative information and online predatory practices.
  • In mild cases or to preempt negative impacts, moderation and self-imposed limitations might be helpful. There are programs and apps which can track what people are doing on their smartphones or computers and then report to the user the time they spend on those apps. The numbers can be a wake-up call, and the apps often have features that can block social media or other distracting sites. They are often meant to aid productivity, but they can also improve mental health if used the right way.
  • Then there is the issue of misinformation and disinformation on social media. As we mentioned earlier, out of those who experience negative mental health effects from social media, 71 percent of them blame these things. While they might not be the true causes to that degree, they have a clear impact and need to be addressed, likely in a way beyond what we are seeing already. Because while we are seeing some efforts to remove harmful and false content on major platforms (if only due to intense public pressure), it isn’t perfect, and it is clear there is more to be done.
  • And it is not as though social media companies don’t know that their apps and networks can have negative impacts. For example, there are papers in which Facebook and its leads are well aware of some of the impacts. It seems they have little impetus or reason to change things beyond what will placate their critics. After all, an addicted user spends a lot of time with the app, which leads to more money for the network in most cases.
  • Based on what we know, this means it will take outside action and social pressure to make serious changes to the platforms billions of users use daily. And that can make it a complicated issue but a worthwhile one.
  • Finally, it comes down to the decisions everyday users (or non-users) make every day. If people expect each other to constantly be on social media, that puts more pressure on everyone to be on social media. This partially leads to negative mental health effects. The fewer people feel that social media is a norm and a habit, the more people can break away if they feel the need to.


There is a lot to consider when it comes to social media, our collective mental health, and the path forward to a better future. Yet we hope that with this information, you can better get a handle on your intentions with social media and how you might be personally affected by it. We encourage you to look further into the topic, discover additional sources, and return to this page as needed.