Social Media and Physical Health: What's the Relationship?
Many research findings link chronic social media use to health concerns for adults and adolescents. While many of these problems are related to mental health, the rise of physical health concerns is just as significant. Read on to learn more about the relationship between social media and physical health.
Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by
Attorney Matthew Bergman
Adults and adolescents active on social media risk developing unhealthy behaviors stemming from that use. There continue to be many studies connecting these behaviors to mental health concerns, but the physical health matters from long-lasting social media use shouldn’t be ignored.
Social media platforms have a responsibility to self-regulate. When they fail to do so because their profits outweigh safety, you and your child feel the adverse consequences. The social media addiction lawyers at the Social Media Victims Law Center understand your worry for your child’s health as well as your own. We fight to hold social media companies accountable for the negative outcomes chronic social media addiction has on a person’s physical health, and mental health.
How does social media use affect your physical health?
The physical effects of social media use likely stem from the algorithms these platforms use to keep you and your child returning — and sometimes for longer periods. This is where the concern lies regarding the physical health impact on children, teens, and adults.
How are adults affected?
Excessive use of social media often plays a role in sedentary lifestyles, and your overall well-being can suffer. While social media has some social benefits, addictive use leads to in-person relationship declines and a lack of enjoyment in activities you once loved. Too much social media use leading to inactivity is an underlying cause of unhealthy weight gain. This becomes dangerous for your health because it increases your risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Habitually checking social media during the day can be hard to break at night. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that the blue light emitted from computer, tablet, or mobile phone screens disrupts your natural sleep cycle. You may even have difficulty getting to sleep.
Sleep deprivation results not only from your screen’s blue light but also from a fear of missing out. Staying up late to read or write posts and check “likes” has its physical tolls. Sleep deprivation is associated with increased risks of several physical ailments, including obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Because of their size and portability, mobile phones are likely the most convenient tool you use to check social media updates. But doing so too often results in musculoskeletal costs due to chronic poor and awkward posture. Common problems include but aren’t limited to:
- Wrist and thumb pain, sometimes with nerve involvement, giving way to tingling, stiffness, and numbing sensations
- Neck and upper back pain
- Digital eyestrain symptoms, such as headaches, vision difficulties, and eye strain
How are children and teens affected?
There isn’t much difference in the physical effects of social media use among adults versus children. But, compared to adults, adolescents are more at risk of becoming addicted to social media because they’re still neurologically developing. Consequently, parents may find it harder to reverse the physical effects on their children due to social media’s psychological effects.
There’s no denying social media’s influential power, and your child is susceptible to it. A recent article from Appetite notes that food and beverage companies use social media to bombard your child with their brands. This marketing strategy puts profits over nutrition, risking your child to make poor food choices and bad habits. The consequences include hypertension, obesity, and diabetes that can seep into their adulthood.
Physical growth concerns
It’s not hard to see why since social media use can lead to sedentary living and poor nutrition choices. Inactive lifestyles and a lack of calcium and vitamin D intake can cause juvenile osteoporosis. Also, excessive screen use, such as social media, is linked to reduced bone density.
Bone health is particularly important, as your child is still growing and renewing their bone tissue throughout their teens and young adulthood. Healthy choices are necessary during all stages of life, but adolescence is typically when bone tissue eventually peaks in strength and density. After that, your child could experience skeletal concerns into adulthood.
Disease caused by inflammation
Looking at specific concerns, a University of Buffalo research team found that excessive social media use may increase levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is an inflammation marker and precursor to serious health conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Is there additional research on social media’s link to physical health?
There’s no shortage of research and peer-reviewed articles on social media use and its effects on physical health.
A study conducted by researchers from Psychological Reports reported findings consistent with the idea that chronic social media use among adolescents is its own risk factor for adverse health behaviors and choices. The 2021 report found that sleep disruption was among the outcomes, along with lower instances of physical activity among girls.
While there are many studies on the links between social media and body image among children and teens, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports a study concluding the association between social media use and concerning eating habits among adults aged 19 to 32.
What can you do to improve physical health?
Breaking the addiction to social media is the first step to improving your or your child’s physical health.
A study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity reports that interventions against social media use lead to increased physical activity and healthier dietary choices. The methods performed in the study were in-person engagements, educational guidance, and encouraging challenges and rewards.
As a parent, you can take similar steps to help your child’s health and your own. Watch for the signs of social media addiction in yourself or your child, such as the fear of missing out. Be honest and keep communication open about the purpose of social media, including its benefits and dangers. Other steps include the following:
- Schedule a specific time for social media or limit it to a certain amount each day
- Use apps to track and monitor social media use
- Find other meaningful activities to do, either alone, socially, and as a family
Contact the Social Media Victims Law Center Today
It’s important to talk with your child about the dangers of social media and regulate their time spent on social media platforms. Not only does social media addiction impact physical health, but has detrimental effects on a child’s mental health. Cyberbullying on social media platforms has increased exponentially over the past years, leading to an increase in unnecessary loss of life by suicide.
If your child was the victim of cyberbullying and online harassment, Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
The team of experienced attorneys at Social Media Victims Law Center works to hold these companies legally accountable for how their designs impact vulnerable users.
Matthew P. Bergman