Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 311–331 | Cite as

Media Use Is Linked to Lower Psychological Well-Being: Evidence from Three Datasets

  • Jean M. TwengeEmail author
  • W. Keith Campbell
Original Paper


Adolescents spend a substantial and increasing amount of time using digital media (smartphones, computers, social media, gaming, Internet), but existing studies do not agree on whether time spent on digital media is associated with lower psychological well-being (including happiness, general well-being, and indicators of low well-being such as depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts). Across three large surveys of adolescents in two countries (n = 221,096), light users (<1 h a day) of digital media reported substantially higher psychological well-being than heavy users (5+ hours a day). Datasets initially presented as supporting opposite conclusions produced similar effect sizes when analyzed using the same strategy. Heavy users (vs. light) of digital media were 48% to 171% more likely to be unhappy, to be in low in well-being, or to have suicide risk factors such as depression, suicidal ideation, or past suicide attempts. Heavy users (vs. light) were twice as likely to report having attempted suicide. Light users (rather than non- or moderate users) were highest in well-being, and for most digital media use the largest drop in well-being occurred between moderate use and heavy use. The limitations of using percent variance explained as a gauge of practical impact are discussed.


Digital media Electronic gaming Social media Psychological well-being Happiness Suicide 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Jean M. Twenge declares she has no conflict of interest. W. Keith Campbell declares he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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