Dissertations & Theses (Open Access)

Date of Award

Summer 5-2019

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Adriana Perez, Ms, Phd

Second Advisor

Christine Markham, Phd


Background: In 2017, 17.3 million adults in the U.S. (7.1% of all U.S. adults) have had at least one major depressive episode, with individuals ages 18-25 having the highest prevalence of major depression at 13.1%. Studies have looked at the association between social media (SM) use and depression with mixed findings. The goal of this research is to conduct a scoping review of existing evidence for the relationship between SM use and depression among college students.

Methods: Searches for articles published in the scientific literature were performed on PubMed, Embase and Scopus. Articles selected followed an inclusion criteria: studied SM use and depression in college students over 18 years, were written in English, were published between October 2013 and October 2018, studied time spent on SM, addiction to SM and/or different SM behaviors and were cross-sectional, observational, longitudinal or intervention studies. Articles were screened and imported into citation manager Refworks for duplicate removal. Full-text articles were found through Pubmed, Embase, Scopus or Google Scholar for eligibility screening. Articles needing to be purchased were requested through interlibrary loan or requested from authors.

Results: 14 articles met inclusion criteria; 92.9% were cross-sectional. Half of the articles measured time spent on SM (including daily hours and frequency), with mixed findings; 42.9% of articles studied SM addiction, with all studies presenting a significantly positive association with depression. Over sixty percent (64%) of the articles studied specific SM behaviors, with mixed findings. Included articles presented a larger correlation between individual characteristics (e.g. neuroticism, loneliness, suicidal ideation, self-esteem and academic stressors) and SM addiction and depression than time spent on SM and SM behaviors. The odds of SM addiction and depression were 40% higher in college students in China than in the U.S and the risk of SM addiction and depression in college students was found to be 28% higher in Hong Kong (HK)/Macau and 12% higher in Japan than in the U.S. Only one randomized controlled trial was identified in this scoping review. After 2 weeks, statistically significant reductions were observed in both SM addiction and depression through mean rank comparisons of before and after treatment.

Conclusion: This review reiterated the need for longitudinal studies to access directionality and the need to standardize measures used to measure social media, depression in college students. Future studies could continue to focus on the relationship between individual characteristics (i.e. loneliness, neuroticism and self-esteem), SM addiction, SM comparison and depression and further study RCTs utilizing treatment periods longer than 2-weeks.