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Young adults use social media to create supportive communities (USA)

April 5, 2012

A new study done for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that transitional youths (between the ages of 18 to 24 years) used social networking sites to create a supportive community for themselves.

This study was based on an online survey with 274 participants. Over half the group reported mental illness (68 per cent), while the remainder did not identify with a mental illness (although the majority had friends or family with mental illness). The majority of participants were white females, with an average participant age of 21.

The study was conducted to examine ways in which young adults with mental illness experience social media, to understand the resources they use online in order for NAMI to create a site that is tailored to their needs, and to identify the difference of pattern use between young adults with mental illness and those without. The study adds to the limited research in this area.

The study found that 94 per cent of the participants with mental illness currently use social network sites. These sites are used to reduce social isolation, find others they can help, make new friends, and get information on independent living skills, housing, employment, and other community resources.

In contrast, participants without mental illness used the sites to make plans for social activities. Both groups of participants enjoyed the communication aspect of social media best, preferring to send a private message over participation in discussion groups. Both groups of participants were least likely to want housing and income supports to appear on social media sites.

See, “Young Adults with Mental Health Conditions and Social Networking Websites: Seeking Tools to Build Community,” available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

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