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Not for everyone: Personality, mental health, and the use of online social networks

Howley, P.; Boyce, C.;

Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers from HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York

Abstract: Much previous research has examined the relationship between online socialising and mental health, but conclusions are mixed and often contradictory. In this present paper we unpack the online social networking - mental health relationship by examining to what extent the relationship between these variables is personality-specific. Consistent with the idea that communicating through the internet is fundamentally different from face-to-face socializing, we find that on average, use of social networking web-sites is negatively associated with mental health. However, we find that the mental health response is dependent upon an individual’s underlying personality traits. Specifically, individuals who are either relatively extraverted or agreeable are not substantively affected from spending significant amounts of time on social networking web-sites. On the other hand, individuals who are relatively more neurotic or conscientiousness are much more likely to experience substantive reductions in their mental health from using social networking web-sites. We suggest that if the aim of public policy is to mitigate the adverse mental health effects from excessive internet use, then one-size-fits all measures will likely be misplaced. More generally, our research highlights the importance of conducting differentiated analyses of internet users when examining the health effects from internet use.

Keywords: personality traits; psychological health; internet; social interaction (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-exp, nep-hea, nep-ict, nep-pay and nep-soc
Date: 2017-01
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