The association between adolescents’ online behaviours and mental health and loneliness
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Description: Time spent online and on social media has risen rapidly amongst adolescents over the last decade. Over the same period of time, rates of suicide, non-suicidal self-harm, and common mental disorders have increased, particularly amongst females. Digital technologies have been linked to several positive outcomes, including peer and professional online support and social connection. However, research also indicates that some online behaviour, including exposure to harmful content, and excessive time spent online, may be linked to depression, suicide, and self-harm, particularly among girls and marginalised groups. Findings from several studies suggest that social media use may be associated with poorer mental health in adolescents. For example, data from the Millennium Cohort Study suggests that a greater amount of time spent on social media on a weekday is associated with an increased risk of self-harm for adolescent females, alongside increased depressive symptoms, and poor self-esteem. Similarly, research indicates that greater time spent on social networking websites can lead to higher psychological distress. Relatedly, young people may be exposed to harmful content while spending time online. Using the OxWell 2021 secondary school data, the overarching aim of this paper is to examine the association between adolescent online behaviours and mental health and loneliness.