Associations between social media use, psychological stress, well-being, and alpha-amylase levels in adolescents



Early Adolescence, Internet, Social Media, Stress, Alpha-amylase


Despite abundant research on positive and negative consequences of social media use (SMU) in adolescence, concomitant examinations of subjective and objective measures of stress or well-being, and SMU following theory-based, conceptual models of digital stress are rare.  In a cross-sectional study, we examined the associations between current subjective stress (self-report; PSS-10), objective stress (salivary alpha-amylase), self-reported well-being, and SMU in 76 German adolescents (52% male; Mage = 13.73 years). Zero-order correlations and block wise hierarchical regression models examined incremental validity of SMU in predicting stress and well-being (physical, emotional) beyond sociodemographic covariates, and loneliness.  Models explained up to 50% (emotional well-being) of variance in self-reported outcomes, with significant incremental values of problematic SMU (?R2 = .12) for emotional well-being, and subjective stress (?R2 = .11). In addition, stress was associated with facets of digital stress, namely objective stress and perceived connection overload (i.e., at least daily SMU) (?=.25, p<.05), subjective stress and approval anxiety (?=.22, p<.05).  The findings support the digital stress framework of SMU in adolescents suggesting differential pathways of SMU towards subjective and objective stress, and (emotional) well-being. The study underlines the need for a nuanced debate and multi-method assessment in the study of social media use and stress in adolescents.