The effect of online social media use on individual mental health remains contested. This study examines the effect of online social media (Facebook, Twitter and chat) on adult mental health in Indonesia. Instrumental variable analysis was used to address reverse causality issues. Data come from the Indonesia Family Life Survey (IFLS) 2014, which polled 22,423 individuals age 20 years and older in 9987 households and 297 districts in Indonesia. The findings show that social media use harms adult mental health; an increase of one standard deviation in adult use of social media is associated with 9% increase in CES-D score. The effect is robust with respect to an extensive set of individual, household, community and district covariates. The findings suggest that policies offering advice to wise use of online social media are needed to protect adults from the harmful effects of online social media on their mental health.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Almedom, A. M. (2005). Social capital and mental health: An interdisciplinary review of primary evidence. Social Science & Medicine, 61(5), 943–964.
Andresen, E. M., Malmgren, J. A., Carter, W. B., & Patrick, D. L. (1994). Screening for depression in well older adults: Evaluation of a short form of the CES-D. American journal of preventive medicine., 10, 77–84.
APJII. (2016). Survey pengguna Internet Indonesia. Jakarta: APJII.
Araya, R., Lewis, G., Rojas, G., & Fritsch, R. (2003). Education and income: Which is more important for mental health? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57(7), 501–505.
Baum, C. F. (2006). An introduction to modern econometrics using Stata: Stata press.
Bechtel, L., Lordan, G., & Rao, D. P. (2012). Income inequality and mental health: School of Economics, University of Queensland.
Bergin, A. E. (1983). Religiosity and mental health: A critical reevaluation and meta-analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14(2), 170–184.
Bradley, N., & Poppen, W. (2003). Assistive technology, computers and Internet may decrease sense of isolation for homebound elderly and disabled persons. Technology and Disability, 15(1), 19–25.
Bromet, E., Andrade, L. H., Hwang, I., Sampson, N. A., Alonso, J., De Girolamo, G., et al. (2011). Cross-national epidemiology of DSM-IV major depressive episode. BMC Medicine, 9(1), 1.
Burki, T. K. (2016). Smoking and mental health. The Lancet Respiratory medicine.
Califano, J. A., Jr., Bush, C., Chenault, K. I., Dimon, J., Fisher, M., Fraser, D. A., et al. (2001). So help me God: Substance abuse, religion and spirituality. Chairperson and President of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. New York: Columbia University.
Case, A., Fertig, A., & Paxson, C. (2005). The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance. Journal of Health Economics, 24(2), 365–389.
Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 310–357.
Cotten, S. (2009). Using ICTs to enhance quality of life among older adults: Preliminary results from a randomized controlled trial. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.
Cotten, S. R., Ford, G., Ford, S., & Hale, T. M. (2012). Internet use and depression among older adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2), 496–499.
Das, J., Do, Q.-T., Friedman, J., McKenzie, D., & Scott, K. (2007). Mental health and poverty in developing countries: Revisiting the relationship. Social Science & Medicine, 65(3), 467–480.
Dein, S., Cook, C. C., & Koenig, H. (2012). Religion, spirituality, and mental health: Current controversies and future directions. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200(10), 852–855.
DeYoung, C. G., Peterson, J. B., & Higgins, D. M. (2002). Higher-order factors of the Big Five predict conformity: Are there neuroses of health? Personality and Individual Differences, 33(4), 533–552.
DeYoung, C. G., Hirsh, J. B., Shane, M. S., Papademetris, X., Rajeevan, N., & Gray, J. R. (2010). Testing predictions from personality neuroscience brain structure and the big five. Psychological Science, 21, 820–828.
d'Hombres, B., Rocco, L., Suhrcke, M., & McKee, M. (2010). Does social capital determine health? Evidence from eight transition countries. Health Economics, 19(1), 56–74.
Dickinson, A., & Gregor, P. (2006). Computer use has no demonstrated impact on the well-being of older adults. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 64(8), 744–753.
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 276–302.
Draper, B., Pfaff, J. J., Pirkis, J., Snowdon, J., Lautenschlager, N. T., Wilson, I., & Almeida, O. P. (2008). Long-term effects of childhood abuse on the quality of life and health of older people: Results from the Depression and Early Prevention of Suicide in General Practice Project. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 56(2), 262–271.
Dzator, J. (2013). Hard times and common mental health disorders in developing countries: Insights from urban Ghana. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 40(1), 71–87.
Eastman, J. K., & Iyer, R. (2004). The elderly's uses and attitudes towards the Internet. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 21(3), 208–220.
Ellison, C. G., Boardman, J. D., Williams, D. R., & Jackson, J. S. (2001). Religious involvement, stress, and mental health: Findings from the 1995 Detroit Area Study. Social Forces, 80(1), 215–249.
Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends”: Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4), 1143–1168.
Frankenberg, E., Friedman, J., Gillespie, T., Ingwersen, N., Pynoos, R., Rifai, I. U., et al. (2008). Mental health in Sumatra after the tsunami. American Journal of Public Health, 98(9), 1671–1677.
Gartner, J., Larson, D. B., & Allen, G. D. (1991). Religious commitment and mental health: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Psychology and Theology., 19, 6–25.
Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Swann, W. B. (2003). A very brief measure of the Big-Five personality domains. Journal of Research in personality, 37(6), 504–528.
Grieve, R., Indian, M., Witteveen, K., Tolan, G. A., & Marrington, J. (2013). Face-to-face or Facebook: Can social connectedness be derived online? Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 604–609.
Hanandita, W., & Tampubolon, G. (2014). Does poverty reduce mental health? An instrumental variable analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 113, 59–67.
Heckman, J. J. (1995). Randomization as an instrumental variable: National Bureau of Economic Research Cambridge. USA: Mass.
Hidayat, B., & Thabrany, H. (2010). Cigarette smoking in Indonesia: Examination of a myopic model of addictive behaviour. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(6), 2473–2485.
Huang, C. (2010). Internet use and psychological well-being: A meta-analysis. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 13(3), 241–249.
IFLS. (2014). Household survey book 3B. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.
Jelenchick, L. A., Eickhoff, J. C., & Moreno, M. A. (2013). “Facebook depression?” Social networking site use and depression in older adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(1), 128–130.
Jenkins, R., Njenga, F., Okonji, M., Kigamwa, P., Baraza, M., Ayuyo, J., et al. (2012). Prevalence of common mental disorders in a rural district of Kenya, and socio-demographic risk factors. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 9(5), 1810–1819.
Jordan, A. H., Monin, B., Dweck, C. S., Lovett, B. J., John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2011). Misery has more company than people think: Underestimating the prevalence of others’ negative emotions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(1), 120–135.
Jorm, A. F., Rodgers, B., Jacomb, P. A., Christensen, H., Henderson, S., & Korten, A. E. (1999). Smoking and mental health: Results from a community survey. The Medical Journal of Australia, 170(2), 74–77.
Judge, T. A., Heller, D., & Mount, M. K. (2002). Five-factor model of personality and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(3), 530–541.
Kalpidou, M., Costin, D., & Morris, J. (2011). The relationship between Facebook and the well-being of undergraduate college students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14(4), 183–189.
Kavetsos, G., & Koutroumpis, P. (2011). Technological affluence and subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 32(5), 742–753.
Kawachi, I., Berkman, L., & Kawachi, I. (2000). Income inequality and health. Social Epidemiology, 76–94.
Kawachi, I., Ichida, Y., Tampubolon, G., & Fujiwara, T. (2013). Causal inference in social capital research Global Perspectives on Social Capital and Health (pp. 87–121): Springer.
Kessler, R. C., McLaughlin, K. A., Green, J. G., Gruber, M. J., Sampson, N. A., Zaslavsky, A. M., et al. (2010). Childhood adversities and adult psychopathology in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 197(5), 378–385.
Koenig, H. G., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Religion and mental health: Evidence for an association. International Review of Psychiatry, 13(2), 67–78.
Kraut, R., Kiesler, S., Boneva, B., Cummings, J., Helgeson, V., & Crawford, A. (2002). Internet paradox revisited. Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 49–74.
Lasser, K., Boyd, J. W., Woolhandler, S., Himmelstein, D. U., McCormick, D., & Bor, D. H. (2000). Smoking and mental illness: A population-based prevalence study. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(20), 2606–2610.
Lee, P. S., Leung, L., Lo, V., Xiong, C., & Wu, T. (2011). Internet communication versus face-to-face interaction in quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 100(3), 375–389.
Lim, C., & Putnam, R. D. (2010). Religion, social networks, and life satisfaction. American Sociological Review, 75(6), 914–933.
Lindenauer, P. K., Pekow, P. S., Lahti, M. C., Lee, Y., Benjamin, E. M., & Rothberg, M. B. (2010). Association of corticosteroid dose and route of administration with risk of treatment failure in acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 303(23), 2359–2367.
Lou, L. L., Yan, Z., Nickerson, A., & McMorris, R. (2012). An examination of the reciprocal relationship of loneliness and Facebook use among first-year college students. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 46(1), 105–117.
Lousdal, M. L. (2018). An introduction to instrumental variabel assumptions, validation and estimation. Emerging Theme in Epidemiology, 15(1), 1–7.
Lu-Yao, G. L., Albertsen, P. C., Moore, D. F., Shih, W., Lin, Y., DiPaola, R. S., & Yao, S.-L. (2008). Survival following primary androgen deprivation therapy among men with localized prostate cancer. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 300(2), 173–181.
Mancini, L. (2008). Horizontal inequality and communal violence: Evidence from Indonesian districts Horizontal Inequalities and Conflict (pp. 106–135): Springer,.
Miller, D. L., Scheffler, R., Lam, S., Rosenberg, R., & Rupp, A. (2006). Social capital and health in Indonesia. World Development, 34(6), 1084–1098.
Morahan-Martin, J., & Schumacher, P. (2003). Loneliness and social uses of the Internet. Computers in Human Behavior, 19(6), 659–671.
Mumford, D. B., Nazir, M., Jilani, F., & Baig, I. Y. (1996). Stress and psychiatric disorder in the Hindu Kush: A community survey of mountain villages in Chitral, Pakistan. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 168(3), 299–307.
Murphy, G. C., & Athanasou, J. A. (1999). The effect of unemployment on mental health. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 72(1), 83–99.
Nie, N. H., Hillygus, D. S., & Erbring, L. (2002). Internet use, interpersonal relations, and sociability. The Internet in Everyday Life, 215–243.
O'Hara, K. (2004). “Curb cuts” on the information highway: Older adults and the Internet. Technical Communication Quarterly, 13(4), 426–445.
Owen, K. U., & Watson, N. (1995). Unemployment and mental health. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 2(2), 63–71.
Pantic, I., Damjanovic, A., Todorovic, J., Topalovic, D., Bojovic-Jovic, D., Ristic, S., & Pantic, S. (2012). Association between online social networking and depression in high school students: Behavioral physiology viewpoint. Psychiatria Danubina, 24(1), 90–93.
Paul, K. I., & Moser, K. (2009). Unemployment impairs mental health: Meta-analyses. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 74(3), 264–282.
Pierce, T. (2009). Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(6), 1367–1372.
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1(3), 385–401.
Rosen, L. D., Whaling, K., Rab, S., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2013). Is Facebook creating “iDisorders”? The link between clinical symptoms of psychiatric disorders and technology use, attitudes and anxiety. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 1243–1254.
Satcher, D., Friel, S., & Bell, R. (2007). Natural and manmade disasters and mental health. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 298(21), 2540–2542.
Saunders, P. L., & Chester, A. (2008). Shyness and the internet: Social problem or panacea? Computers in Human Behavior, 24(6), 2649–2658.
Selfhout, M. H., Branje, S. J., Delsing, M., ter Bogt, T. F., & Meeus, W. H. (2009). Different types of internet use, depression, and social anxiety: The role of perceived friendship quality. Journal of Adolescence, 32(4), 819–833.
Shonkoff, J. P., Garner, A. S., Siegel, B. S., Dobbins, M. I., Earls, M. F., McGuinn, L., et al. (2012). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129(1), e232–e246.
Silva, J. S., & Tenreyro, S. (2006). The log of gravity. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 88(4), 641–658.
Semiocast. (2013). Internet growth in Asia. France: Semioscast.
Soldz, S., & Vaillant, G. E. (1999). The big five personality traits and the life course: A 45-year longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Personality, 33(2), 208–232.
Staiger, D. O., & Stock, J. H. (1994). Instrumental variables regression with weak instruments: National Bureau of Economic Research Cambridge, Mass., USA.
Steinfield, C., Ellison, N. B., & Lampe, C. (2008). Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29(6), 434–445.
Strauss, J., Witoelar, F., and Sikoki, B. (2016). User’s guide for the Indonesia Family Life Survey, Wave 5. Retrieved from.
Stukel, T. A., Fisher, E. S., Wennberg, D. E., Alter, D. A., Gottlieb, D. J., & Vermeulen, M. J. (2007). Analysis of observational studies in the presence of treatment selection bias: Effects of invasive cardiac management on AMI survival using propensity score and instrumental variable methods. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 297(3), 278–285.
Sturman, E. D. (2011). Involuntary subordination and its relation to personality, mood, and submissive behavior. Psychological Assessment, 23(1), 262–276.
Sum, S., Mathews, R. M., Hughes, I., & Campbell, A. (2008). Internet use and loneliness in older adults. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 11(2), 208–211.
Suziedelyte, A. (2012). How does searching for health information on the Internet affect individuals' demand for health care services? Social Science & Medicine, 75(10), 1828–1835.
Tampubolon, G., & Hanandita, W. (2014). Poverty and mental health in Indonesia. Social Science & Medicine, 106, 20–27.
The Ministry of Health. (2015). The Indonesia Basic Health Services 2013. Jakarta: The Ministry of Health.
Thoits, P. A. (1983). Multiple identities and psychological well-being: A reformulation and test of the social isolation hypothesis. American Sociological Review, 48, 174–187.
Thomas, D., Witoelar, F., Frankenberg, E., Sikoki, B., Strauss, J., Sumantri, C., & Suriastini, W. (2012). Cutting the costs of attrition: Results from the Indonesia Family Life Survey. Journal of Development Economics, 98(1), 108–123.
Trocchia, P. J., & Janda, S. (2000). A phenomenological investigation of Internet usage among older individuals. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 17(7), 605–616.
Wall, W. D. (1956). Education and mental health.
Warr, P. (1987). Work, unemployment, and mental health: Oxford University Press.
Williams, A. W., Ware, J. E., Jr., & Donald, C. A. (1981). A model of mental health, life events, and social supports applicable to general populations. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22, 324–336.
Windmeijer, F. A., & Santos Silva, J. M. (1997). Endogeneity in count data models: An application to demand for health care. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 12(3), 281–294.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study used public source data. Thus, this article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Sujarwoto, S., Tampubolon, G. & Pierewan, A.C. A Tool to Help or Harm? Online Social Media Use and Adult Mental Health in Indonesia. Int J Ment Health Addiction 17, 1076–1093 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-019-00069-2
- Online social media
- Mental health
- Instrumental variable analysis