Social Media Use and Perceived Emotional Support Among US Young Adults

Ariel Shensa, Jaime E. Sidani, Liu yi Lin, Nicholas D. Bowman, Brian A. Primack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Low emotional support is associated with poor health outcomes. Engagement with face-to-face social networks is one way of increasing emotional support. However, it is not yet known whether engagement with proliferating electronic social networks is similarly associated with increased emotional support. Thus, the purpose of this study was to assess associations between social media use and perceived emotional support in a large, nationally-representative sample. In October 2014, we collected data from 1796 U.S. adults ages 19–32. We assessed social media use using both total time spent and frequency of visits to each of the 11 most popular social media platforms. Our dependent variable was perceived emotional support as measured by the brief Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) emotional support scale. A multivariable model including all sociodemographic covariates and accounting for survey weights demonstrated that, compared with the lowest quartile of time on social media, being in the highest quartile (spending two or more hours per day) was significantly associated with decreased odds of having higher perceived emotional support (AOR 0.62, 95 % CI 0.40, 0.94). However, compared with those in the lowest quartile, being in the highest quartile regarding frequency of social media use was not significantly associated with perceived emotional support (AOR 0.70, 95 % CI 0.45, 1.09). In conclusion, while the cross-sectional nature of these data hinder inference regarding directionality, it seems that heavy users of social media may actually feel less and not more emotional support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-549
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotional support
  • Nationally-representative data
  • PROMIS (patient reported outcomes measurement information system)
  • Social media
  • Social networks
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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