Meigs Health Matters… Screen time, social media, sleep quality and mental health


By Marc Barr - Meigs Health Matters



Barr

Barr


Living in a digital era, it is hard to find someone who has not heard of social media. A research survey from 2021 estimates that 85% of the U.S. population 18 years and older own a smartphone. In the age range of 18-49 it is estimated that 96% of the U.S. population own a smartphone. With a portal into the digital world so conveniently close, social media has become a major player in human entertainment. For those younger than 18, we commonly see adolescents playing games and watching YouTube on smartphones and tablets. Recently, there has been a growing body of evidence linking the correlation between screen time (social media use, games, videos, ect…) and its effects on sleep quality and mental health.

It is reported that 81% of youth are on some form of social media. There are many benefits to social media, but we also need to be aware of the concerns. Concerns include a platform for bullying, age-inappropriate material and posting personal information or photos for anyone to view, including online predators. Moreover, it has been suggested that excessive screen time closer to bedtime is associated with increased cognitive arousal, leading to delayed sleep latency and difficulties maintaining sleep. Keep in mind this can impact anyone; however, researchers believe that youth are still developing a sense of self-regulation and thus they are most prone to adverse effects of screen time and social media as contributing to poor sleep and negative mental health outcomes.

Have you ever noticed that some individuals cannot hold a conversation, attend an important meeting, or have a meal without checking their phone? Researchers have coined the phrase “fear of missing out.” This is a common theme among people who are on social media more than the average person. This “fear of missing out” has been linked to anxiety with can aggravate compulsions to constantly check one’s phone or social media accounts. Interestingly, not only is the volume of screen time a concern, but excessive screen time and social media use near bedtime are highly correlated with poor sleep habits and depressive symptoms.

Limiting screen time can be accomplished. It is suggested that an individual should not exceed 2 hours of screen time a day. If your job requires screen time, you should be extra careful to limit time on devices outside of work. You can easily gain access to screen time reports within the settings of your phone or tablet. You can also set limits for yourself or your children.

This past year I read a terrific book called “The Comfort Crisis.” The author embarked on a 33-day caribou hunting trip in the Alaskan backcountry. Hundreds of miles from the nearest civilization, medical care, or grocery store. Just 3 people in the remote wilderness living in a tent. The author notes that when you are disconnected from civilization, you do not worry about politics, covid pandemic or anything that you cannot control. Once he returned many of his loved ones noticed he had changed. His wife noted that he was more attentive to conversations with her and their children, never distracted by his phone anymore. Could social media and screen time really have a profound impact on our lives? There is one way to find out! If you or someone else needs mental health assistance, visit our website at www.meigs-health.com to view our service directory.

References:

Alonzo R, Hussain J, Stranges S, Anderson KK. Interplay between social media use, sleep quality, and mental health in youth: A systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2021 Apr;56:101414. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2020.101414. Epub 2020 Dec 10. PMID: 33385767.

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By Marc Barr

Meigs Health Matters

Marc Barr is Meigs County Health Commissioner.

Marc Barr is Meigs County Health Commissioner.