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Patients with anxiety or depression who engaged in health-related social media usage were significantly more likely to report to report intentions to quit smoking, endorse past 12-month attempts at smoking cessation, and were more likely to meet national recommendation for weekly strength training.
Patients with mental disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or major depressive disorder (MDD), are more likely to use social media platforms for health-related reasons compared to the general population.1
A team, Henry Onyeaka, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, examined the potential for using social media tools for health promotion by patients with anxiety or depression.
Patients with mental disorders also have increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This also means this patient population experiences mortality than the general population.
However, evidence-based strategies and interventions to promote physical and cardiometabolic health in mental health contexts are very limited.
Social media is 1 area that can be utilized as a tool to expand the reach of mental health services, including the delivery of behavioral and physical health interventions.
“Lifestyle interventions have recently gained traction for their role in promoting physical and mental wellbeing,” the authors wrote. “Despite its widespread availability, the potential for social media use to support positive lifestyle behaviors in mental health contexts remains relatively unexplored.”
In the study, the investigators used cross-sectional data from the 2017-2020 edition of the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) and evaluated differences between patients with a self-reported history of diagnosed depression/anxiety and the general population concerning health-related usage of social media platforms.
They also evaluated the association between social media usage and positive health behaviors using multivariable logistic regression.
The results show individuals with mental disorders were more likely to engage in health-related social media usage compared to the general population. They also found patients with anxiety or depression who engaged in health-related social media usage were significantly more likely to report to report intentions to quit smoking (odds ratio [OR], 3.13, 95% CI 1.12 – 8.70; P = 0.029) endorse past 12-month attempts at smoking cessation (OR 3.41, 95% CI 1.32 –8.82; P = 0.012) and were more likely to meet national recommendation for weekly strength training (OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.11 – 2.00; P = 0.008).
“People with anxiety or depression use social media for health purposes at rates higher than the general population,” the authors wrote. “Our findings suggest that these tools can reach many people with mental disorders and offer a novel window of opportunity to promote physical health and positive lifestyle behavior change in this highly vulnerable population.”
Onyeaka, H., Firth, J., Ajayi, K. V., Muoghalu, C., Holmes, K., Nkemjika, S., Adeolu, F., Anugwom, G., Eseaton, P. O., Onyeaka, N. C., Huffman, J., & Torous, J. (2023). Association between Social Media and health promotion among individuals with depression and anxiety: Insights from the 2017 to 2020 Health Information National Trends Survey. Journal of Mood and Anxiety Disorders, 100006. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xjmad.2023.100006