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Keeping you connected or keeping you addicted? Weekly use of social media platforms is associated with hazardous alcohol use and problem gambling among adults.

AIMS: A wide variety of social media platforms exist, each offering tailored solutions to attract specific target audiences based on their social media needs and interests. This diversity may pose a risk factor for the development or perpetuation of harmful behaviors. Research has established a connection between social media use and increased health risk behaviors. This six-wave exploratory longitudinal study investigated the associations between active social media use, hazardous alcohol use, and problem gambling among adult social media users.

METHODS: Data were collected via surveys in 6-month intervals, starting in March-April 2021 (T1: N = 1530; Mage = 46.67; SD = 16.42; 50.33% male). Of the T1 respondents, 58.10% participated in T6 (n = 889). Measures included the frequency of use of different social media platforms, the 3-item Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C), and the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). Hybrid multilevel regression models were used for analyses.

RESULTS: We found positive within-person effects of weekly Facebook use and between-person effects of weekly use of Facebook, TikTok, and gambling-related online communities on drinking. These results suggest an increase in hazardous alcohol consumption over time among the platforms' active users. Weekly Instagram use had a negative between-person effect on hazardous alcohol use. Individuals using TikTok or gambling communities weekly were more prone to problem gambling compared to non-weekly users.

CONCLUSIONS: There are risks involved in the active use of some social media services among adult users. Prevention work, including digital health interventions, should be targeted according to the appropriate user group.

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