The effects of social media use on older adults' mental health and wellbeing: a systematic review and a longitudinal study
This thesis comprised two components, a systematic review and a longitudinal survey study. The systematic review aimed to synthesise the effects of social media use on mental health and wellbeing in older adults by systematically searching three electronic databases PsycINFO, PubMed and CINAHL in November 2021. Forty-four papers met inclusion criteria including 20 cross-sectional studies, five observational longitudinal studies, nine interventional studies, three mixed-methods studies and seven qualitative studies. While associations between social media use and positive mental health and wellbeing outcomes are generally reported in cross-sectional studies, the impact of social media use over time from longitudinal studies was mixed and inconclusive. More research is needed to understand the impacts of social media use on older adults' mental health and wellbeing. The longitudinal survey study aimed to investigate the characteristics of the use and effects of social media on older adults' depression, anxiety, and loneliness over time. The online survey was administered twice (three months apart). One hundred and twenty-one participants (Mage = 73, SD = 7, range = 60 to 92, 68% female) completed the survey at time one and 63 (Mage = 72, SD = 7, range = 60 to 86, 62% female) of these completed the survey at time two. The survey presented questions on demographics, social network size and quality, social interaction anxiety, patterns of social internet use, loneliness, depression and anxiety. The overall findings were that social media use led to increased loneliness over time over and above control variables, but did not uniquely impact depression or anxiety. Post-hoc tests suggested that sending and receiving photos may be particularly relevant for future loneliness. More research is needed to understand the impacts of social media use on mental health and wellbeing, and the causal factors that drive this effect.