Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2023

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Hannah Allen

Second Advisor

Sarah Bilsky

Third Advisor

Carrie Smith

Relational Format



Background. Social media use continues to increase globally, and there is a large field of research examining the relationships between social media use with anxiety, depression, and body image. College-aged students are particularly vulnerable to these associations because they are at a unique developmental point of their life. College-aged students also use social media more frequently than almost any other age group, which may put them at increased risk for negative mental health and body image outcomes related to their social media use. TikTok is a relatively new social media app that has exponentially risen in popularity, especially among younger age groups. There is limited research on TikTok’s associations with anxiety, depression, and body image. This study aims to 1) analyze the relationships between TikTok use with anxiety, depression, and body image among college students, 2) examine whether gender and race moderate these relationships.

Methods. This was a cross-sectional study that used a self-administered online survey. Subjects were college students at the University of Mississippi who were over the age of 18 and had used TikTok in the last 30 days. Demographic information was collected including age, sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and class standing. To assess social media use, participants were asked how many days a week (frequency) and how many hours a day (quantity) on average they used TikTok. Additionally, the Social Media Use Integration Scale (SMUIS) was administered. To assess mental health, the GAD-7 and PHQ-9 were used to measure anxiety and depression symptoms, respectively. The Shared Content Anxiety (SCA) subscale of the Social Anxiety Scale for Social Media Users (SAS-SMU) was also administered. Body image was assessed using the BAS-2 (Body Appreciation Scale). Linear regression models were used to assess the associations between TikTok use, mental health, and body image. To analyze if race and gender moderated these relationships, linear regressions were run again after stratifying the sample by race and sex.

Results. A final sample of n=260 college students was analyzed, with a mean age of 20.1 years old. The sample was mostly female (84.6%) and white (75.4%). Days of TikTok use per week was not associated with any outcomes of interest. Increased daily hours of TikTok use was associated with decreased body image and higher levels of depression and shared content anxiety. Increased attachment to TikTok was associated with higher levels of depression and shared content anxiety. Key differences in associations of interest were noted when the sample was stratified by race and sex.

Conclusion. This study suggests that there are negative relationships between TikTok use and anxiety, depression, and body image among college students, and particular subgroups may be at increased risk for negative outcomes related to their TikTok use. Future research should continue to examine the links between social media use and health and functioning among adolescents and young adults.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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