Digital Communities: Youth Mental Health + Online Behavior

Last year, we commissioned a study from the Benenson Strategy Group. Surveying over 3,000 young people between the ages 15-24 and over 1,000 parents, we gathered critical insight about youth mental health, digital habits, and overall wellness. We’ve distilled some of that wisdom in our Kind Communities survey. Now, we’re using that data to explore how a young person’s mental wellness is impacted by their online behavior. The result is this report on Digital Communities: Youth Mental Health and Online Behavior.

In addition to examining the correlation between social media use and mental wellness, the survey sought to better understand how youth – including those who identify as LGBT+ – perceive their digital communities and how they use online resources to better understand and manage their mental health.

Some of our key findings include:

Overall, regular social media use does not appear to impact mental health. The survey found little difference in mental health among those who post daily on social media, with 61% having high mental health scores and 57% having low mental health scores. This suggests that the relationship between social media use and mental health is more nuanced than often assumed.

A significant plurality of young people say that their online community is a source of comfort, especially young men and LGBT+ youth. Among respondents, half of all men and 40% of women say that their online community is a source of comfort, while 52% of LGBT+ youth say that their online community is a source of comfort compared to 45% of non LGBT+ youth.

Young men and LGBT+ youth are more likely to say they go online to find relatable people because it’s hard to do so in daily life. The survey found that nearly half (48%) of young men say that they go online to find related people because it’s hard to do so in daily life compared to 39% of women. The gap is even larger for LGBT+ youth, with 62% saying that they go online to find relatable people because it’s hard to do so in daily life compared to 40% of non LGBT+ youth.

You can read the full report below. We hope it sparks a conversation and we hope you’ll be inspired to join us in our mission to make a kinder, braver world.