Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Association of Social Networking Site Content with Older Adults' Health
by Szymanski, Benjamin Richard, Ph.D., Yale University, 2018, 82; 10957341
Abstract (Summary)

The effect of social networking site (SNS) use on health is unclear. Previous findings have been mixed, with some studies finding benefits, some harm, and others no effect on health. These studies generally have two limitations. First, most of the research has focused on adolescent and young adult populations, with very little information about older adults, who represent an increasingly large share of SNS users. Second, most research treats SNS use as a homogenous exposure that can be quantified as time spent on SNSs or the number of SNS friends. This ignores the social concept of social networking sites, where each user has a unique experience based on his or her friends and interests. This dissertation addresses these limitations by focusing on SNS use among older adults and assessing the specific content that users encounter.

The first study is a secondary analysis of data collected by the Pew Research Center on social media use. We found that among SNS users, witnessing cruel content on social networking sites was associated with worse quality of life. Furthermore, when we tested for age interactions, this finding was limited to older adults.

In the second study, we conducted a survey of older adults. This found that among adults over 50 years old, SNS use overall was not associated with health outcomes. Among SNS-using older adults, exposure to negative content on SNSs was associated with worse self-rated health and lower life satisfaction. These findings were true even for the oldest participants (those over 75 years old).

In the third study, we conducted an online survey of Facebook users with detailed questions about the content in their News Feeds. We found that more frequent exposure to negative content on Facebook was associated with worse health at baseline. Furthermore, reading posts that participants considered cruel or offensive in their News Feeds led to increases in feelings of depression.

This dissertation provides new information on the effect of social networking sites on the health of their users. We found that, while SNS use per se was not associated with worse health, being exposed to negative content on SNSs was associated with worse health, both cross-sectionally and prospectively.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Levy, Becca
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-B 79/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mental health, Aging, Epidemiology
Keywords: Aging, Health, Social Media, Social Networking
Publication Number: 10957341
ISBN: 978-0-438-27386-3
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