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Social media behaviors linked with generalized anxiety disorder in Texas State study

Research & Innovation

Jayme Blaschke | November 5, 2019

man sitting at computer

New research conducted at Texas State University, identifies two social media behaviors — comparing oneself to others who are better off, and posting while drinking alcohol — that are most likely to predict Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

The research team is comprised of Aaron Bonnette, Anthony Robinson, Natalie Ceballos and Krista Howard of the Department of Psychology and Stephanie Dailey of the Department of Communication Studies. The study, "Upward social comparisons and posting under the influence: Investigating social media behaviors of U.S. adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder," is published in the online journal Spotlight on Mental Health Research at

"Our results show two key social media factors—comparing yourself to others better off and posting while drinking alcohol—best predict generalized anxiety disorder," Dailey said. "We hope these findings raise awareness among social media users about specific online behaviors that might provoke anxiety symptoms."

While time spent on social media has been linked to certain mental health difficulties, it remains unclear which social media behaviors may be damaging to mental well-being. The Texas State study aimed to identify specific social media behaviors related to GAD by recruiting more than 1,300 U.S. adults who were active social media users to participate in an online survey. 

Analyses of the responses showed that individuals experiencing GAD were most likely to participate in behaviors associated with social media addiction. Behaviors associated with GAD included a greater likelihood of upward social comparisons — that is, users comparing themselves to others who were better off — being bothered if unfriended/unfollowed and being more likely to post under the influence.  

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922