The sport is booming, but for many in the U.S., social media can be a barrier to belonging.
Now, a new study by a UCLA mental health researcher and a former UCLA swimmer aims to help those who struggle find belonging in an age of digital disruption.
The study, conducted by the UCLA Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, is the first to use social media to help identify mental health issues among college students.
The authors of the study say their findings will likely lead to more awareness and help to educate the public about mental health problems among the more than 12 million Americans.
“What we’re seeing is a growing awareness that mental health is a public health issue,” said David M. Cernovich, an assistant professor of psychology and behavioral sciences and the study’s lead author.
“We want to help the community understand the role of the media and social media in providing a sense of belonging and belongingness.”
The researchers looked at the mental health of a group of students between the ages of 17 and 21 in their first semester at the school, the first semester of the 2017-18 school year, and the second semester of 2019-20.
They identified and interviewed about 600 students across a wide range of age, race, gender and sexual orientation.
The students who were interviewed were asked how they experienced being socialized to socialize, how they felt about being judged or the perception of their mental health.
The results of the survey showed that the students who struggled most with socialization were most likely to have been socially isolated or bullied.
Those students who reported experiencing social isolation were more likely to be depressed, have a history of anxiety and anxiety disorders and had more self-injurious behaviors.
In the first year of the university’s new social media program, students who said they struggled with socializing were asked to provide a brief story about how they found themselves isolated.
The response rate for the students with a history, anxiety or depression disorder was 94 percent.
“It’s about understanding what it is that people are feeling and understanding that what they’re feeling is a real thing,” said Jennifer O’Neill, an associate professor of education and the senior author of the paper.
“This study is the most important piece of evidence we’ve had on the impact of social isolation on students’ mental health.”
In addition to focusing on students who struggle to socialise, the study also looked at how they perceived and reacted to the attention and attention-seeking behaviors of others in the community.
The research team found that the majority of the students were “tempted to judge” others based on their perceived perceived perceived value.
“These students were not feeling the same sense of self,” Cernich said.
“They were not connecting with others in a way that felt authentic to them.”
“I think that’s the biggest takeaway,” O’Neil said.
The new research will likely help to inform the growing efforts to understand and reduce the impact on students of social-media-induced mental health and add to efforts to educate those who suffer.
“For years, social media has been a place for bullying and bullying-type behavior, and that’s something we’ve seen time and time again in our research,” said Dr. Michael B. Nierenberg, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and director of UCLA’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.
“But we know that social media is changing, and this research suggests that people can’t stay on social media forever.
They can’t avoid it and don’t want to be socialized online, and we need to be mindful of that.”
The UCLA research was published online July 8 in the Journal of Mental Health Services Research.
Contact reporter Heather Laughlin at [email protected]
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