More than one-third (36%) of US adults have at some point taken an extended break from social media because it was having a negative effect on their mental health, according to survey results from YouGov. The results show that younger and middle-aged respondents are more likely to have done so than older ones.
Indeed, some 41% of 18-29-year-olds have taken an extended break from social media due to negative impacts on their mental health. But this wasn’t even the largest share: that distinction belongs to 30-44-year-olds. In fact, this age group was as likely to say that they had taken a break at some point (44% share) as that they hadn’t (44% share), with the rest unsure.
By contrast, just 19% of adults ages 65+ have taken a break from social media for mental health reasons.
The results bring to mind previous research from Harris Poll and Ad Age in which a sizable share of Instagram users aware of social media controversies said that they would be likely to stop using the platform given reports about the app’s effect on youth mental health. Additionally, 58% said they were likely to limit or completely stop their children from using the app for this reason.
Prior to that, a study from the Pew Research Center had found that young Facebook users were more likely than others to have taken a break from the platform, though the reasons for doing so were unspecified.
Meanwhile, separate results from YouGov indicate that many place the blame on social media for teenage mental health issues. In spotlighting recent studies showing an increase in depression among American teenagers, especially teenage girls, the research indicates that 51% of adults believe that social media is either completely (18%) or mostly (33%) responsible for the increase. Unlike with the results about taking a break from social media, though, there was not much difference in finger-pointing among age groups.
The data is interesting in light of media reports and prognostications about the “death” or decline of social media, at least in the traditional sense (e.g. The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal). While survey data doesn’t necessarily support this for the time being, it will be interesting to monitor given marketers’ heavy reliance on social media.
About the Data: The results are based on a February 2023 survey of 6,740 US adults (18+).