The relationship between social media use and adolescent health-risk behaviours

Purba, Amrit Kaur (2023) The relationship between social media use and adolescent health-risk behaviours. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Background: Social media may offer several benefits for adolescent development, including facilitating collaborative learning, communication and social relationships. Yet, concerns have been voiced over its impact on adolescent health-risk behaviours. Given existing inequalities in health-risk behaviours, understanding how social media’s effects may differ across socioeconomic groups and may influence inequalities is required. This thesis, therefore, explores the potential impact of social media on health-risk behaviours and associated inequalities.

Methods: Following an essay exploring social media’s role as a determinant of health (Chapter 3), a systematic review investigated the relationship between social media use (frequency of use, time spent and exposure to health-risk behaviour content) and adolescent health-risk behaviours (Chapter 4). The longitudinal relationship between time spent on social media and adolescent cigarette use, e-cigarette use, dual use (Chapter 5), and alcohol use and binge drinking (Chapter 6) was then investigated using the UK Millennium Cohort Study, with effect modification by parental education also assessed.

Results: Social media offers several benefits for adolescent health, but its increasing marketing of unhealthy commodities and ability to spread dis/misinformation can undermine public health messages. The systematic review found social media use is adversely associated with alcohol, drug, tobacco, e-cigarette use, gambling, sexual risk, anti-social, unhealthy dietary and multiple risk behaviours, with limited subgroup analysis by socioeconomic circumstances. Millennium Cohort Study analyses demonstrated time spent on social media was associated with increased risk of cigarette use, e-cigarette use, dual use, alcohol use and binge drinking in a dose-response manner. Adolescents with highly educated parents had a larger absolute risk difference for cigarette use and binge drinking than adolescents of less educated parents.

Conclusions: Risk-taking behaviours and arguably, social media use are now inherent parts of adolescence. Social media’s ability to promote adolescent health-risk behaviours past the point of experimentation strengthens calls for guidance and legislation securing adolescent online safety, which includes improved regulation of social media content displaying health-risk behaviours.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO Unit
Funder's Name: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Supervisor's Name: Katikireddi, Professor S. Vittal, Henderson, Professor Marion and Pearce, Dr. Anna
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83752
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2023 16:05
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2024 15:07
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83752
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