Social media use and perceived social isolation among young adults in the U.S.

Primack B.A., Shensa A., Sidani J.E., Whaite E.O., Lin L.Y., Rosen D., Colditz J.B., Radovic A., & Miller E. (2017). Social media use and perceived social isolation among young adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.01.010


Introduction: Perceived social isolation (PSI) is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. Social media platforms, commonly used by young adults, may offer an opportunity to ameliorate social isolation. This study assessed associations between social media use (SMU) and PSI among U.S. young adults.

Methods: Participants were a nationally representative sample of 1,787 U.S. adults aged 19–32 years. They were recruited in October–November 2014 for a cross-sectional survey using a sampling frame that represented 97% of the U.S. population. SMU was assessed using both time and frequency associated with use of 11 social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, and Reddit. PSI was measured using the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System scale. In 2015, ordered logistic regression was used to assess associations between SMU and SI while controlling for eight covariates.

Results: In fully adjusted multivariable models that included survey weights, compared with those in the lowest quartile for SMU time, participants in the highest quartile had twice the odds of having greater PSI (AOR=2.0, 95% CI=1.4, 2.8). Similarly, compared with those in the lowest quartile, those in the highest quartile of SMU frequency had more than three times the odds of having greater PSI (AOR=3.4, 95% CI=2.3, 5.1). Associations were linear (p<0.001 for all), and results were robust to all sensitivity analyses.

Conclusions: Young adults with high SMU seem to feel more socially isolated than their counterparts with lower SMU. Future research should focus on determining directionality and elucidating reasons for these associations.