Gender differences in the associations between age trends of social media interaction and well-being among 10-15 year olds in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

BMC Public Health


Cara L. Booker, Yvonne J. Kelly and Amanda Sacker

Publication date


Background: Adolescents are among the highest consumers of social media while research has shown that their well-being decreases with age. The temporal relationship between social media interaction and well-being is not well established. The aim of this study was to examine whether the changes in social media interaction and two well-being measures are related across ages using parallel growth models. Methods: Data come from five waves of the youth questionnaire, 10-15 years, of the Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (pooled n = 9859). Social media interaction was assessed through daily frequency of chatting on social websites. Well-being was measured by happiness with six domains of life and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results: Findings suggest gender differences in the relationship between interacting on social media and well-being. There were significant correlations between interacting on social media and well-being intercepts and between social media interaction and well-being slopes among females. Additionally higher social media interaction at age 10 was associated with declines in well-being thereafter for females, but not for males. Results were similar for both measures of well-being. Conclusions: High levels of social media interaction in early adolescence have implications for well-being in later adolescence, particularly for females. The lack of an association among males suggests other factors might be associated with their reduction in well-being with age. These findings contribute to the debate on causality and may inform future policy and interventions.







Information And Communication Technologies, Social Networks, Psychology, Time Use, Young People, Well Being, Health, Life Course Analysis and Social Behaviour


Open Access; © The Author(s). 2018; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.; Extensive media coverage by over 400 outlets worldwide

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