Social media use and life satisfaction among Swedish adolescents : Examining the potentially moderating role of physical activity

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för folkhälsovetenskap

Abstract: Background: The decline of adolescents’ mental well-being, coinciding with an increase of social media as a primary platform for adolescents’ social life, have been suggested to be associated. The current study aimed to investigate the association between social media frequency, problematic social media use (PSMU), and adolescents’ life satisfaction, the potential moderating effect of physical activity on these associations, and in-group differences in the associations by gender and grade. Method: The sample consisted of cross-sectional, self-reported, data from the Swedish cohort of the 2017/18 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study (n=3,446). Ordinal logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratios for the association between the outcome variable, low life satisfaction, and the exposure variables: Social media frequency, measured in time spent on communication through social media, and PSMU, measured as the number of symptoms from the Social Media Disorder scale, while adjusting for covariates. Gender and grade stratified analysis was conducted, as well as interaction analysis of physical activity. Results: After adjustment for covariates, no association was found between high social media frequency use and life satisfaction, but a small association with was found among adolescents with lower social media frequency. There was a significant and graded association between PSMU and lower life satisfaction. Stratified analysis showed gender and age differences in the associations, with higher odds of lower life satisfaction for girls and 13- and 15-year-olds. No moderating effect of physical activity was found for any of the associations. Conclusion: Social media use can be considered a proximal social determinant of adolescent health through its demonstrated association with life satisfaction. PSMU, as well as girls and older adolescents, has a stronger connection to lower life satisfaction than frequency of use and should be considered in policy work for prevention and improvement of adolescent health.

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