Upward Social Comparisons and Posting Under the Influence: Investigating Social Media Behaviors of U.S. Adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder




Bonnette, Aaron
Robinson, Anthony
Dailey, Stephanie
Ceballos, Natalie A.
Howard, Krista

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Spotlight on Research


Introduction: The use of social media has been steadily increasing among U.S. adults, and while time spent on social media has been linked to certain mental health difficulties, it remains unclear precisely which social media behaviors may be damaging to mental well-being. The current study aimed to identify specific social media behaviors related to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Methods: U.S. adults (n = 1,314) aged 18 to 82 (M = 35.74) who actively use social media were recruited to participate in an online survey assessing specific social media behaviors. The Patient Health Questionnaire was included to assess the presence of GAD. Univariate analyses were conducted to identify specific social media behaviors associated with GAD. A stepwise binary multivariate logistic regression was developed to determine the key social media behaviors most strongly associated with GAD. Results: Analyses at the univariate level showed a trend, such that individuals with GAD endorsed behaviors associated with social media addiction and censorship. Other behaviors associated with GAD included a greater likelihood of participants comparing themselves to others who are better off than they are, being bothered if unfriended/unfollowed, and being more likely to post under the influence. The multivariate logistic regression model identified two key social media factors most strongly associated with GAD: participants comparing themselves to others better off (p < .001) and posting while drinking alcohol (p = .044). Conclusion: Upward social comparisons and alcohol use while on social media are significantly associated with GAD in an adult population.



anxiety disorder, social media, upward comparisons, alcohol use, Communication Studies


Bonnette, A., Robinson, A., Dailey, S., Ceballos, N., & Howard, K. (2019). Upward social comparisons and posting under the influence: Investigating social media behaviors of U.S. adults with generalized anxiety disorder. Spotlight on Research, pp. 1-25.


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