Media and Mental Health: How DNA contributes to the good and bad side of online media use in young adulthood

Ziada Ayorech, Jessie R. Baldwin, Jean-Baptiste Pingault, Kaili Rimfeld, Robert Plomin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Co-occurring national rises in online media use and mental health problems have prompted investigations into their association, although most of this literature is focussed on the deleterious effects of media exposure. We assessed phenotypic associations between media use and mental health in young adulthood (M age= 22.14) and their aetiology using multivariate twin analyses in over 4,000 twin pairs and complementary polygenic score analyses on over 6,000 genotyped unrelated individuals. Crucially we go beyond traditionally explored negative uses of online media (online victimisation and problematic internet use) to investigate diverse media uses such as posting online content and watching video clips. We also distinguish both positive (pro-social behaviour) and negative (anxiety, depression, peer and behaviour problems) mental health measures. Negative media use correlated with negative mental health outcomes (r =0.11 to 0.32), but positive media use correlated with prosocial behaviour (r = 0.20) and better mental health outcomes (r = -0.24). Both positive and negative media use were moderately heritable (ranging from 20% to 49%) and their associations with mental health were primarily due to genetic influences (44-88%). Psychiatric polygenic scores were also correlated with media use although effect sizes were small. These findings echo calls for a more nuanced investigation to media use and mental health associations given evidence that their cooccurrence can be underlined by common genetic vulnerabilities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusSubmitted - 2021

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