Journal of Community Health

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 541–549 | Cite as

Social Media Use and Perceived Emotional Support Among US Young Adults

  • Ariel ShensaEmail author
  • Jaime E. Sidani
  • Liu yi Lin
  • Nicholas D. Bowman
  • Brian A. Primack
Original Paper


Low emotional support is associated with poor health outcomes. Engagement with face-to-face social networks is one way of increasing emotional support. However, it is not yet known whether engagement with proliferating electronic social networks is similarly associated with increased emotional support. Thus, the purpose of this study was to assess associations between social media use and perceived emotional support in a large, nationally-representative sample. In October 2014, we collected data from 1796 U.S. adults ages 19–32. We assessed social media use using both total time spent and frequency of visits to each of the 11 most popular social media platforms. Our dependent variable was perceived emotional support as measured by the brief Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) emotional support scale. A multivariable model including all sociodemographic covariates and accounting for survey weights demonstrated that, compared with the lowest quartile of time on social media, being in the highest quartile (spending two or more hours per day) was significantly associated with decreased odds of having higher perceived emotional support (AOR 0.62, 95 % CI 0.40, 0.94). However, compared with those in the lowest quartile, being in the highest quartile regarding frequency of social media use was not significantly associated with perceived emotional support (AOR 0.70, 95 % CI 0.45, 1.09). In conclusion, while the cross-sectional nature of these data hinder inference regarding directionality, it seems that heavy users of social media may actually feel less and not more emotional support.


Emotional support Social media Social networks PROMIS (patient reported outcomes measurement information system) Nationally-representative data Young adults 



Dr. Primack is supported in part by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (R01-CA140150).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ariel Shensa
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jaime E. Sidani
    • 1
    • 2
  • Liu yi Lin
    • 1
  • Nicholas D. Bowman
    • 4
  • Brian A. Primack
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Center for Research on Media, Technology, and HealthUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of PediatricsUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  4. 4.Department of Communication StudiesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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