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Longitudinal Problematic Social Media Use in Students and Its Association with Negative Mental Health Outcomes.

PURPOSE: Social media has become increasingly part of our everyday lives and is influential in shaping the habits, sociability, and mental health of individuals, particularly among students. This study aimed to examine the relationship between changes over time in problematic social media use and mental health outcomes in students. We also investigated whether resilience and loneliness moderated the relationship between social media use and mental health.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A total of 103 participants completed a baseline virtual study visit, and 78 participants completed a follow-up visit, 4-weeks later. Participants completed a comprehensive set of questionnaires measuring symptoms of depression and anxiety, perceived stress, loneliness, and resilience.

RESULTS: Our results showed that problematic social media use at baseline was significantly negatively correlated with resilience and positively correlated with all other mental health outcomes. Furthermore, increases in problematic social media use were significantly associated with increased depressive symptoms and loneliness between visits. Resilience significantly moderated the relationship between increased problematic social media use and heightened perceived stress. Poor mental health at baseline did not predict increased problematic social media use over time. Contrarily to problematic use, frequency of social media use was not significantly correlated with any mental health measures at baseline.

CONCLUSION: This study offers a longitudinal perspective, providing valuable insights into the potential protective role of resilience against the detrimental mental health effects seen with increases in problematic social media use.

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