Social Media and Mental Health: A Narrative Literature Review

Deidre Laban
17 November 2017


Laban, D. (2017). Social Media and Mental Health: A Narrative Literature Review. (A project submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree Master of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand.) [PDF 1.30MB]


Objective: The purpose of this literature review is to inform occupational therapists on how the use of social media could influence mental health.

Background: Given the rapid growth and pervasive use of social media as an occupation there are various ways of looking at whether it has a positive or negative impact on mental health. Social media literature is limited in occupational therapy. As there are many uninformed perspectives, it is important for occupational therapists to have an educated understanding of the complexities that exist when clients are using social media. This will enhance the knowledge and skill base of occupational therapists working in mental health.

Method: This paper draws on the framework developed by Seabrook, Rickard and Kern (2016) and uses the narrative literature review design outlined by Green, Johnson and Adams (2006).

Discussion: The positive gains from social media use include the capacity for enhancement of social connections, social support, self-esteem and quality of life. Risks include, exposure of negative social comparison, cyberbullying, harmful material, addiction as well as possible physiological changes that could impact on mental health.

Conclusion: This review provides extensive coverage of the literature on the possible influences to mental health from social media use. It provides information to occupational therapists on how social media use can benefit clients and includes warnings of potential risk factors. This paper aims to encourage informed conversations between occupational therapy clinicians and clients about the use of social media as an occupation, particularly about influences on mental health.

Keywords: social media, social networking sites, mental health, well-being

This thesis was supervised by Mary Butler.


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